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Creator Series: Kid Keemo

Lindsey Kilbride

Many children identify with fictional characters. Some watch the same morning cartoons while they wait for the school bus. Other kids might carry a stuffed animal to give them courage as they walk down the dark hallway of their home in the middle of the night. One Spark creator Craig Riley saw the need for a much different type of character.

Each week WJCT highlights one of the creators participating in Jacksonville's One Spark Festival as part of our Creator Series.

Riley developed Kid Keemo and the Med Gown Gang. It’s a set of characters that children with cancer can identify with. Each character has a story that kids undergoing chemotherapy can relate to.

It all started when Riley’s nephew Sean was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. Riley would visit Sean and he gave him the nickname “Kid Keemo.”

“While I was at the treatment center with him I would name some of the other kids that were going through treatment,” Riley said, “I would name them Baldy, Ivy, and they all laughed, they all loved the characters’ names.”

Most of the characters are going through the same serious cancer-related treatments and side effects that the children are going through.

The character Ivy is a girl with a story about frequently getting IV’s. There is another character named Boosty with a story about drinking boost shakes.

“The kids really didn’t want to [drink boost shakes],” Riley said, “but when they saw this character in a coloring book I made, drinking boost shakes and talking about how it made them feel better, then they were more at ease doing it.”  

Riley's nephew lost his battle with cancer in 2007,  just one month shy of his 17th birthday.

Riley has continued to produce Kid Keemo merchandise, but he is still in the relatively early stages of development. 

Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT
Parents Craig and Kristy Riley with their three children, Baylor age 4, bottom right, Madeline age 7 1/2, middle and Connor age 1, top right, holding a Kid Keemo banner.

The Med Gown Gang is not only  found in a coloring book but also on trading cards, backpacks, T-shirts, whoopee cushions and toothbrushes.

Riley has much bigger plans for gang including getting it in all hospitals and cancer treatment centers.

“I would love to have dolls made up for the kids, stuffed animals with Kid Keemo all over it,” Riley said. “I would even like to get transportation from the kids’ home to the treatment center… like a Hummer wrapped in Kid Keemo [with] a PlayStation.”

This is Riley’s first shot as a One Spark creator. His booth will be located in the Wells Fargo building. He envisions a colorful set-up with giveaways.

“Maybe somebody could point me in the right direction,” Riley said, “just to get noticed, just to get it out there and get response, get feedback from people”

Riley would also like to get funding for products and to move the project along. He said he just wants to get Kid Keemo into the hands of the kids out there in the hospitals.

“Making them laugh put[ting] a smile on their face. That’s what it’s all about.”

You can follow Lindsey Kilbride on Twitter @lindskilbride.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.