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James Miles, MD Altruism Story | Giving His Time in the Great Outdoors

James Miles, MD Altruism Story | Giving His Time in the Great Outdoors

There’s something special about James Miles, MD. He’s gentle and kind. He has a passion for the great outdoors. And he loves helping kids. 

As a pediatric neurologist at Altru, Dr. Miles diagnoses and treats kids with an array of neurologic issues ranging from headaches and developmental delays to seizures and beyond. It took years of preparation to practice pediatric neurology, and it takes ongoing study and rigor to stay on top of his game. 

No one would fault Dr. Miles for kicking back in his free time and getting in some good old-fashioned rest and relaxation. But instead, Dr. Miles chooses to give some of his valuable free time to the Carson Wentz AO1 Foundation. 

“I have a busy practice and a young family, and I wasn’t even looking to get involved with a nonprofit,” Dr. Miles says. “But when the opportunity fell in my lap, I knew it was something I needed to do.” 

An Organization With Purpose 

The AO1 Foundation isn’t the first organization Dr. Miles has served. For years, he’s given his time and talents to his church. Currently, he plays in the worship team at Freedom Church in Grand Forks, where his wife, Karley, is also deeply involved. And in early 2020, he joined the board of the Town Square Farmers Market. Why stretch himself even thinner to be part of AO1? 

“It’s a Christian-based organization that works with kids with medical needs in the great outdoors,” Dr. Miles says. “AO1 takes everything I’m passionate about and puts it in one organization.” 

Founded by NFL quarterback Carson Wentz, AO1 targets a very specific audience of children who have life-threatening or life-altering medical conditions. The Outdoor Ministry of AO1—one of the three ministries that make up the AO1 Foundation—aims to help children see and enjoy God’s creation and, by doing so, to grow in their faith. They meet this goal through Dr. Miles’s favorite pastimes: hunting and fishing. 

A New Symptom for the Starstruck 

For some kids, the draw isn’t always the activities. It’s who heads up the organization. 

“I’d been wanting to meet Carson Wentz forever,” says 15-year-old Bennett Ereth. “When I heard Carson was involved, I said yeah, I want to go.” His first-time meeting Carson, a starstruck Bennett, was speechless. Now, he talks to him with ease, like an old friend. 

Bennett is more than a starstruck football fan. He’s one of Dr. Miles’s patients. A triplet, Bennett was born at 24 weeks with a brain bleed. This caused his right side to be affected by cerebral palsy, a condition that makes muscle control difficult. Then in April 2019, a new symptom arose when Bennett began having seizures. 

“When Bennett was born, we were told seizures were a possibility,” says Shawnda Ereth, Bennett’s mother. “But after going 12 years without one, we thought we’d dodged that bullet. The seizures were really a surprise.” 

Those seizures sent the Ereth family to Dr. Miles. Though based in Grand Forks, Dr. Miles sees patients like Bennett in Bismarck regularly. At Bennett’s first appointment, he wore an AO1 T-shirt. Dr. Miles commented that he planned to volunteer with the organization. Shortly after, Dr. Miles did just that, and his relationship with Bennett transformed. 

Fishing and Friendship 

If you see Dr. Miles and Bennett interact, you won’t see a doctor patient relationship. You’ll see two people enjoying each other’s company. If Bennett can put down his good manners long enough, you may even hear him call Dr. Miles by his first name. 

“When you’re fishing, studying the Bible and playing games together, you form a different relationship than you do in the office,” Dr. Miles says. “There is still a professional element, but there’s more to it. There’s genuine friendship.” 

Bennett has been to multiple AO1 events. He’s attended two Camp Conquerors summer camps, during which he spent time swimming and horseback riding. He played games with new friends, and like all other campers, had his cellphone confiscated to ensure he was engaged. 

When Bennett went on an AO1 ice fishing trip through the Mountain Movers program, Dr. Miles was there. In three days, the group caught more than 150 fish. Most were perch, but they also snagged some large walleyes on Devils Lake. But the most exciting part wasn’t the number of fish caught. It was the opportunity to enjoy nature, talk about life and form meaningful relationships. 

“As a parent, it’s nerve-racking to send my kid to camp or on a fishing trip,” Shawnda says. “Having his neurologist go with him takes an extra burden off our shoulders. We’re so thankful for Dr. Miles and the great work he does both in and out of the office.”