Weekly Features


Pediatric researcher wrangles food trucks to benefit Riley

July 17, 2014

Interested in a quick, convenient meal on the medical campus at IUPUI, especially if it means contributing to the health and wellness of Riley Hospital for Children patients?

Then Treat Yourself Thursday and the new TruckWagon Wednesday might be just the ticket. The Thursday event runs from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Open to anyone on the IUPUI campus, the target audience is IU School of Medicine faculty, staff and students.

Food trucks at IUSM

Food trucks gather on the IU School of Medicine campus

When she isn’t organizing food options for fellow employees and students, Beth Firulli is a research scientist in the Riley Heart Research Center at the Wells Center for Pediatric Research in the IU School of Medicine. But the food-truck program is important to her, too.

"Organizing this event has been so much fun," she said. "I have gotten to meet and interact with a lot of fantastic people. The anticipation to see how each week goes is always exciting."

Treat Yourself Thursday (previously called Round Up for Riley) and TruckWagon Wednesday provide food options that save time while raising money for Riley Hospital Children’s Foundation. Food truck vendors contribute 15 percent of their proceeds to the foundation to fund more research and quality care.

"It’s a great way for people who don't have a lot of time to walk to nearby restaurants or food courts to get a quick meal and still contribute," Firulli said. The mid-day program is doing well and she expects it to continue into October, and maybe beyond if Indiana’s weather cooperates. The Wednesday evening program, however, needs support if it is to survive, she added.

It hasn’t taken long for the food trucks to click with employees at the IU School of Medicine and Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Laura Oxford, assistant business manager for the Wells Center for Pediatric Research at the IU School of Medicine, is an enthusiastic supporter for “Treat Yourself Thursday” for several reasons, including vendor support for Riley Hospital.

“Those of us in the Riley community are appreciative of, and humbled by, their donations to patient care and research,” Oxford said. “Secondly, I celebrate because the food options are outstanding. It’s a win-win opportunity.”

To Wells Center employee Danny Carney, "Treat Yourself Thursday" offers a welcome change of pace.

"I packed my lunch every day for over five years until this event started," Carney said. "I find myself looking forward to the food trucks, since it presents an opportunity to change up my usual lunch I prepare at home. There are always different, tasty choices that always include a low-cost selection. Also, as a bonus every time I purchase lunch I am contributing to the RCF."

Patrons may like the program and the way it is structured, but so do the vendors.

"Hearing about how much people enjoy our efforts really makes a difference," said Bob Otey, the owner of the Gypsy Café food truck. "One of the reasons why I like doing the charity work is that it takes the sting out of the rough days. I personally have to feel good about what I am doing, and that is what motivates me."

Read more Featured stories »