To Honor a Life Lost Too Young, Mother and Grandfather Help Pediatric Patients and Their Families

Riley Kogen was only five years old when she passed away suddenly in 2013. Her mother, Ali Nathan, B.Sc. ’03, and grandfather, Bob Denholtz, B.B.A. ’71, have honored Riley’s life by helping other families experiencing health crises and are partnering with their alma mater, the University of Miami, to deepen their impact.

Young mother Ali Nathan and daughter Riley embracing
Riley Kogen and Ali Nathan

“Riley was gentle and kind-hearted, with a huge smile and infectious laugh,” said Nathan. “Everyone who met her loved her. We have made it our mission to find ways to honor her unique and special life.”

Riley was born with panhypopituitarism, a rare condition that affects the production of hormones in the pituitary gland. Two days after her fifth birthday, she had a seizure and did not recover. The family donated Riley’s kidneys, saving two women’s lives.

“Riley gave the gift of life to two women, and we wanted to find ways to help more,” said Nathan.

Raising Funds with Riley’s Dance

Soon after Riley passed away, the family partnered with the New Jersey Sharing Network Foundation to start Riley’s Dance, which is now a 501(c)(3) organization, to raise funds to support families with health crises and for organ transplantation.

They recently expanded their philanthropy to focus on research into pediatric illnesses being conducted at the Miller School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

“Ali and I have always felt a strong connection to the University of Miami, and we wanted to give back both personally and through Riley’s Dance,” said Denholtz, who has served on numerous committees and boards at the University, including his current position on the President’s Council and the School of Communication Dean’s Advisory Committee. “The Miller School is a perfect fit for us. It is forward-thinking with its innovative research and comprehensive programs. The pediatrics team provides families with all the resources they need in one location.”

Nathan’s vision is to support the Department of Pediatrics because it is there that “life begins.”

“All children should have an opportunity to lead a healthy life and dance, just as my beautiful daughter used to,” said Nathan.

This past December, which would have marked Riley’s 14th birthday, Nathan made a $50,000 gift through Riley’s Dance to support five different areas within pediatrics — in honor of Riley’s five years of life — including the Pediatric Mobile Clinic, pediatric cardiology, pediatric intensive care unit, palliative care, and neonatology.

“We are grateful for the support of Riley’s Dance, which will help us continue to accomplish extraordinary things every day for children of all ages,” said Glenn Flores, M.D., chair of pediatrics, senior associate dean of child health, and the George E. Batchelor Chair in Child Health.

Nathan will also volunteer in pediatric palliative care, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for patients who are facing life-threatening or life-limiting conditions.

“Ali’s help will be invaluable,” said G. Patricia Cantwell, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics and at the Holtz Children’s Hospital. “She can draw on her knowledge and experience to help patients and their families navigate the complexities of the medical system and cope with their stressful situations, so they can focus on getting their loved ones better.”

Nathan and Denholtz are hoping to inspire others in the University of Miami community and beyond to join their efforts and get involved.

“Riley taught me to never take a single day for granted and live my life to the fullest, and I will always do so in her honor,” Nathan said.

“We will forever celebrate her life and ensure her memory lives on,” added Denholtz.

For more on Riley’s Dance, visit

Tags: Ali Nathan, Bob Denholtz, Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Glenn Flores, Dr. Patricia Cantwell, Riley's Dance