Joshua Riemer is from Eagle, Wisconsin, a small town in the southeast corner of the state. He decided to join the Army National Guard and loved it so much, he went active duty, became a sergeant, and was deployed to Iraq twice.
It was there he met Emily. Originally from Kansas City, she was on her first tour of duty and Joseph was on his second.
They fell in love, got married, and wanted to start a family. When it didn’t happen, they decided to adopt.
Through the foster system, Addison came into their home at two days old.
Alexis followed at two-and-a-half.
“When she was placed with us, she was essentially non-verbal. She would self-harm and scream for 20 hours a day, pull her hair out, bang her head. She was severely abused and neglected before she came to us,” Emily said. “She has what’s called trauma brain and reactive detachment disorder.”
They also discovered she had some severe health issues.
“She has global muscle weakness, pretty much every body system has some problems going on. She would complain of neuropathy in her hands and feet, so the neurologist ordered an MRI and that’s when they found the Chiari.”
The Colts and Wish For Our Heroes surprised a military family with a trip to Disney World. SFC Joseph Riemer and Emily Riemer's adopted daughter is scheduled for brain surgery at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Chiari malformation is an uncommon condition where the skull forces the brain tissue to extend into the spinal cord.
“She’s pretty much in pain 24-7,” Emily said. “She’s just not a happy kiddo. It’s really hard.”
Emily and Joshua adopted both girls, now 4 and almost 6.
“Couldn’t love them any more,” she said.
With almost 20 years of active duty, Joshua decided to take a job in recruiting to stay home and help with his family.
A year ago, they ended up in Indianapolis.
With a big surgery scheduled for Lexi on April 17th, Wish For Our Heroes heard about the Riemers’ story and wanted to help.
“One of the service members that work with the family asked us to help them. What they had asked for was to provide them with some funds so that while they’re in the hospital, the higher cost of food and everything is taken care of,” said Erich Orrick, Vice President of Wish For Our Heroes. “When I started to dive into what the family was about and I found out that they were adoptive parents and they had a lot of issues lately, we decided to make it a little bit better.”
Last Thursday, they teamed up with the Colts to surprise the family at the team’s West 56th Street complex.
Greeted at the door by Colts cheerleaders Ambria and Jessica, the girls made fast friends as they toured the memorabilia room and the studio, while the real surprise awaited them on the practice field.
As they walked through the door, two members of the Colts were there to greet them.
“Welcome. I’m Matthias Farley. I play safety here for the Colts,” he said. “This is my boy, Blue. We’re homies. We hang out all the time. We got a call from Wish For Our Heroes and we heard about your story, we heard about the family and your service, Sergeant Riemer, and obviously this lovely lady’s story.”
Blue embraced Lexi immediately with one of the heartwarming hugs he’s known for.
“It brought tears. She does not get excited about things at all. So, seeing her get excited and run to him was pretty awesome. And then that five minute hug,” said Emily. “It was awesome just to know that she can experience joy – because we don’t see it often.”
But that wasn’t the only surprise.
“Blue is going to help me unveil what’s inside this box, but it’s for your family,” said Farley. “It’s something that I think is awesome. I think everybody who knows about it thinks it’s awesome. So hopefully, you think it’s awesome too.”
As they opened the box, balloons popped up. Then, he pulled out a dollar sign.
“The first thing is, we have some funds to help out with general needs,” he said.
Next, he pulled out an airplane.
“So, you’re definitely going somewhere on a plane. But actually, it gets better than that. Mr. Irsay, when he found out about your story, he was very touched by it and touched by your service, Sergeant Riemer. So, he is going to send you on his personal private jet – so, that should be pretty sweet.”
Last, he pulled out a cutout of the most recognizable mouse in the world.
“Mickey Mouse! You’re all going to Disney World and it should be an absolute blast to see Mickey and all the homies.”
It left the girls ecstatic and their parents shocked and overwhelmed.
“She’s been through more than any kid ever should have to go through, so it’s pretty cool to see her get to experience things like this,” Emily said.
For Joshua, it was a blessing just to see his daughters’ smiles.
“Addison is running around with the cheerleaders, not really knowing why. She’s having a good time with it. And Lexi, once she starts to get better from the surgery, she’ll understand a little better as well.”
The Happiest Place on Earth will be the perfect place for them to spend time together as a family.
And that’s what it’s about – family.
“Football is bigger than just football. It’s a family. You’re part of a community and you have people in the community that are going through things,” said Farley. “Everybody wants to be a part of something bigger than us. There’s a lot of things that people go through that are bigger than football and this is one of them. So, this is really special to be a part of.”
She may not understand everything, but Lexi does know she’s having surgery.
And now, she knows what she’s doing afterwards.
“I’m going to Disney World.”