Paying it forward


Jim and Stephanie Yott honor the memory of their daughter through the Emily Yott Foundation

Stephanie and Jim Yott with their children Olivia (front), Megan Weir (back) and Jessica Rushton. (Not pictured: Katie Rushton) (Photo by Jordan Fischer)

Jim and Stephanie Yott understand what it means to have a sick child.

In 2006, their then-1-year-old daughter Emily was diagnosed with leukemia. Through 14 months of treatment at both Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent, the Yotts say Emily’s ever-smiling nature kept them going. And when Emily passed away in 2007, they wanted to keep her memory going in return.

With an initial grant from the Tony Stewart Foundation, which raises and donates funds to help care for critically ill children, the Yotts created an endowment in Emily’s name with the Legacy Fund at Central Indiana Community Foundation.

Still, Stephanie said, they thought they could do more.

“We just had so many people giving us money when Emily was sick and we needed it,” Yott said. “When your child is sick, sick enough that one of you can’t work … When families are in good times now, they’re having trouble paying their bills. Now imagine taking out a breadwinner. And that’s the last thing people should be worried about when their kids are sick. So that’s why we started the foundation.”

Since its creation, The Emily Yott Foundation has helped almost 30 families and children suffering from cancer or other severe illnesses. Among those children is Hannah Christian, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in 2008. Her cancer, now in remission, eventually caused doctors to amputate her right leg despite several rounds of chemotherapy. In 2010, the Emily Yott Foundation, through funds raised by private donations, was able to assist in paying for a new prosthetic leg for Christian.

“We always knew we were never going to raise enough money to cure cancer,” Yott said. “My husband and I felt like that would have been drops of water in the ocean. So we decided early on to stay grassroots.”

The foundation works with patients at both Riley Hospital for Children and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.

“Both hospitals hold a special place in our hearts,” Yott said. “They both took such good care of Emily. We’re so lucky to have both of those facilities here.”

Through fundraisers and donations, Yott said the foundation manages to bring in around $10,000 to $20,000 a year, all of which is given to families in need.

“We always ask, ‘Is it worth it?’” Yott said. “But even if it just stayed at this level right now … I have four other children, and a granddaughter now, and (the foundation) helps us to not be so self-absorbed. It teaches our younger kids that there are people in the world in bad situations through no fault of their own, and there’s things we can do to help.”

The foundation’s largest annual fundraiser, the Emily Yott Foundation Lemonade Stand & Carnival, will be held Saturday at the Village Farms Clubhouse, 453 E. Greyhound Pass, Carmel. The carnival features face painting, balloons, a bounce house and carnival games. Admission is $5 per child 12 and under, and parents can get in free. All proceeds go directly to the Emily Yott Foundation.

For more information about the Lemonade Stand, or the Emily Yott Foundation, visit


Emily’s story

Emily Yott

Emily Yott was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after her first birthday. After 14 months of intense treatment, including a stem cell transplant at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Emily passed away in May 2007.

Emily’s parents, Jim and Stephanie Yott, wanted to memorialize their daughter in a special way by allowing her brief life to have far-reaching impact on other children facing life-threatening diseases. The Yott family created a charitable foundation in her memory and also an endowment with Legacy Fund of Hamilton County.

Through The Emily Yott Foundation and the endowment with Legacy Fund, assistance has been given to children and their families that are forced to travel the journey of childhood cancer. The foundation also supports organizations that on helping families in this situation, including Indiana Canine Assistant Network, Riley Hospital for Children, A Special Wish Foundation and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.

“Emily was a very special little girl who won the hearts of all who met her,” said her father Jim Yott. “She inspired adults and taught us how to live life to the fullest as only a child can, even in the face of disease.”

“She always had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye,” said Stephanie Yott, her mother. “We love her and miss her every day.”

The Emily Yott Foundation has grown to more than $44,000 since its creation in 2007. To add to the fund, the Yotts have organized fundraising events, including a dance, silent auction and raffle and most recently Olivia’s Lemonade Stand. Olivia is Emily’s 7-year-old sister who has since caught the “fundraising bug.”

“Emily’s life ignited a spark of giving that overwhelmed and humbled our family,” said Jim Yott. “That spark is now a flame that will burn in our hearts forever. We intend to ‘pay it forward.’”

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