Ryan’s Ride

LITTLE VALLEY – Saturday marks an important day for “almost 11-year-old” Ryan Schroder and his family. It’s the date set for a benefit, “Ryan’s Ride,” to be held from 3-7 p.m. at the Little Valley Fire Hall. The benefit’s name aptly describes its purpose, which is to raise money toward the purchase of a wheelchair-accessible van.

I met Ryan and his father, Aaron, as they perched curbside along South Street, waiting in the sunshine for the Cattaraugus Memorial Day Parade. Ryan likes parades. Like every boy his age, he has things he likes, things he hates, and lots of other things somewhere in between.

“I love Legos and Star Wars movies,” he announces, and it’s apparent from his tone, the world cannot hold too many Legos; “I don’t like football,” he says; and, as for school, he holds a palm out, judiciously rocking it back and forth – seems he can take it or leave it. “But I do have a favorite subject – math – and I’m not too bad at it.”

Ryan splits his time between his mother, Yvonne Schroder, in Cattaraugus, and his dad, Aaron, and stepmother, Launa, in Little Valley. Like most kids, he’s way more focused on his upcoming birthday than the last. If you ask him how old he is, he promptly responds, “Eleven in November.”

Ryan’s in the fourth grade at Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School. But try as he might to be just like everyone else, his life is more complicated than theirs. It’s the wheelchair, you see.

Since his birth, this gutsy little guy has battled a medical monster, a disease called Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy. Duchene’s is an especially severe form of MD, and there’s no cure. It works without letup to break down every muscle in the body, starting with the skeletal muscles that move your arms and legs, then advancing to the involuntary muscles, like those propelling the heart and lungs.

When Ryan was very little, just learning to walk, his parents noticed what they thought was a “charmingly clumsy little boyishness” to his movements. But the “clumsiness” grew more pronounced. Worried, the Schroders took him to one doctor after another; but it wasn’t until he was 5 that the diagnosis of Duchene’s MD was made.

When Ryan started school, he could still walk; but soon, he needed help. That’s when the school furnished him with his first set of “wheels,” a red wagon to transport him from room to room. He called it his “limo.” About two years ago, he started using a wheelchair. “It was one the American Legion loaned to my Grandma before she died,” he explained, and it was clear he was proud to have “inherited” it.

Ryan’s dad said that first wheelchair is now retired. “We have two, now,” he said. “The motorized one’s at home today. With Ryan growing so fast, plus the weight and bulk of the motorized chair, it’s pretty much impossible to get it into our car. We’re just thankful the school has a wheelchair-accessible bus.”

Although Ryan’s muscular strength is dwindling, his inner vitality and curiosity remain unquenchable. His stepmother, Launa, confided that he loves to get out and about. “He’s so interested in things. We’d like to be able to drive him to some of the places he really wants to see – or even just out for a hamburger and soda, while he can still enjoy them. Right now, it’s hard to even get him into the car.”

“Did you know there really is a Legoland?” Ryan suddenly asked, dropping a pretty broad hint about the first place he’d like to go – in case no one had guessed.

That’s the “Why?” of the Ryan’s Ride Benefit. It will feature a free spaghetti dinner (donations gratefully accepted, of course). There’ll be lots of fun and plenty of opportunities to “win stuff” at the huge Chinese auction, as well as the 50/50 drawing. Meanwhile, “Ang and Luke,” will furnish a great mix of country and rock, possibly followed by a little crazy karaoke. It should be a fun time.

Donations will be welcomed and much appreciated. Basket donations may be dropped off at Little Valley Crosby’s, (or call 938-9149 to have them picked up). Monetary donations may be made at CCB Bank in Little Valley.

Plan to join Ryan and his family for the fun-filled benefit, Saturday between 3-7 p.m. Get on board for Ryan’s Ride. You’ll find he’s a sociable little guy, and he’s looking forward to meeting you.