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Former Riley family creating ‘Cooper’s Closet’ for families in unexpected emergency situations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A family who spent the better part of six years in and out of Riley Hospital for Children is now trying to create a closet in their son's memory that will provide clothing to families who find themselves in unexpected emergency situations.

Kara Casavan and her husband lost their son, Cooper, in 2013 to Mitochondrial Disease. The disease is very rare and stops the cells ability to produce enough energy for organ function.

“Well obviously the first couple months after (Cooper's death) you’re basically paralyzed, because you’re not sure how you can go on," Kara Casavan said. "But we can’t just erase what happened. That’s when we focused on doing projects."

The first two years after their son's death the family donated toys to Riley patients. Last year, the Casavans raised more than $2,000 to build a mural in one of the rooms their son had several surgeries in.

"(The mural is in) a room Cooper had been in, wasn’t a fan of, hated the procedures that were done there and so we felt like it was a good match," Casavan said.

Now, the Casavans are thinking bigger and are hoping to create a stockpile of a week's worth of clothing for every size from youth small to adult XXL called, "Cooper's Closet."

“We’ve noticed there is a need for kiddos and families to have access to clothing," Casavan said. "We didn’t always think about it, because we live close, but even then there were plenty of nights where I slept in my work clothes."

She explained there are many families who have to rush to Riley at a moment's notice and a change of clothes are the last thing on their mind.

“Maybe it was a trauma situation and their clothes or ruined or soiled," she said. "If they don’t have a car here, they don’t’ have family members that can come visit, or financial support or even their purse or wallet with them depending on the situation... They really don’t have access to clothing.”

The family is now in the process of collecting clothing.

The Casavans are asking for new comfortable clothes; leggings, sweats and pajamas. If you're interested in donating, you can drop clothes off at the building or mail them. The family is also taking monetary donations to buy new clothes. They hope Cooper's Closet becomes a staple at Riley Hospital.

“My biggest goal is that it’s sustainable. I want this to be a long-lasting benchmark of the patient care and experience at Riley. I want families in 10 years to be able to show up and say, 'I don’t have any clean socks,' and get a pair of clean socks without having to worry about it," Casavan said. "But really I just really want to make sure long-term that we can take away a little stress from the parents that are in the same situations that we were in.”

Donations are going to the Whitestown Municipal Building located at, 6210 Veterans Drive, Whitestown, IN 46075.

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