AMITY — Ryan’s Call Foundation, started by the Swain family after the loss of their son to a tragic drowning accident, is looking to make an impact from a tragedy.
“The whole foundation is based upon the interests that he had in his life,” said Ryan’s father Charles, who also holds a position on the Centerpoint School Board. “Ryan’s life has spelled out the road map for this – his faith, his passion for sports and helping others. It’s his life, that’s why it’s called Ryan’s Call – it’s what he was calling us to do.”
Charles said that the main “dual-faceted” purposes of the foundation would be to A) help teens and families overcome traumatic injuries sustained in sports related activities – on the field or off including hunting and fishing; and B) water safety.
“We want to help promote water safety, obviously, since we lost Ryan to drowning, it’s very near and dear to us,” said Charles.
“We want to help keep it from happening to other parents and other children,” said Christy, Ryan’s mother.
The Swains, which have been presenting $1,500 scholarships to seniors in Centerpoint and Kirby for the past couple years – “the scholarships were the beginning of the foundation” — has brought that program under the umbrella of the foundation, which has obtained a 501c-3 non profit charity designation.
“That means that people that donate to us now, we can provide them with the appropriate documentation and be tax deductible,” said Charles.
“It’s all legal,” Christy laughed, with Charles noting that the foundation has a board of directors, an “incredible group of people who are working with us. It’s not just me, Christy and Blake – we’ve got lots of people – each with their own unique tie to Ryan — behind the scenes that are very beneficial, helpful and dedicated.”
“As we’ve seen many, many times, these communities come together and help people that are in need. We decided when the benefit was held for us, we didn’t have to have the money to help with any kind of expenses, so we started the scholarship fund. These communities we live in are amazing, and we’re not even from here – we’re transplants, but we feel like we’ve become part of this community and we’re blessed to be here,” Charles stated.
The Swains said that the foundation seeks to provide encouragement, support and equipment for those overcoming athletic injuries, perhaps including special activities of interest.
“It’s a much encouragement to overcome what they are going through,” said Charles, noting that Ryan broke his femur in “one of those freaky deals” — a routine tackling drill while playing football as a freshman for Centerpoint.
“He put it in two pieces – it took a plate, nine screws and two wraps of wire to put his leg back together. It was the drive from inside of him to overcome that, to persevere, to keep playing football. The doctor told us ‘we can put your leg back together, you can play baseball’ – which was his main passion – ‘you can do everything you want to do for the rest of your life – but you can never play football again,’” said Charles.
Going into surgery, Ryan told his mother he would play football again. To help facilitate this, Ryan had a second surgery on his leg a year later, removing the plate and screws from his leg, requiring another year of recovery.
In Ryan’s junior year he “played around” with the team and was “plugged in here and there a little bit” according to his father. After the season has completed, Charles said that Ryan told Centerpoint head coach Cary Rodgers that he wanted to play his senior season, and for him to be positioned where he could best benefit the team.
“He started that year as a pulling guard at 6’1” and 160 pounds on the offensive line,” said Charles. “That was a big hurdle for him to overcome as a high schooler – and that drive was all from him, not from us [the parents]. He talked to his mother before he went into surgery, he was about to come out of surgery when I got to the hospital, and all I was worried about was if the kid would be able to walk, and he’s talking about playing football. The doctor said it was severe enough for plates, screws and wire, and that ‘they would just have to see how he heals.’”
“It was all Ryan’s drive, and that’s where helping these kids overcome these injuries comes in. When these kids get hurt, they go ‘hope you get to feeling better and hang in there kid, now go over there.’ I played sports, that’s how it is, but if these kids don’t have that internal drive, if they don’t have that want to, and nobody’s there – unfortunately a lot of kid don’t have someone to say ‘come on, Junior, put a little effort into it and you can make it back,’ and that’s where we want to help support these kids through that.
Students tabbed for the foundation’s help will be found via a combination of school counselors, coaches and medical professionals.
“Additionally, through our website and through awareness, anyone will be able to make a referral,” said Christy.
For the water safety component, the Swains soon hope to go into schools and make presentations.
“Over the past several years, your circumstances take you to people that you never think you would ever meet, and we’ve met a lot of people. Through that, we’ve been put into contact with several different organizations, one is the NDPA (National Drowning Prevention Association) and also one called Families United, and this is with people we have actually formed friendships with personally, and it a group of families across the nation that have went through tragedy – drownings, just like we had – via different circumstances, but these families have foundations that have come together to share resources , information and educational materials within the group. We have just become affiliated with that, and their goal is ‘Not One More – Not One More Life Taken.’ Though education and awareness, we want to help spread the word,” said Christy. “We don’t want any parent to have t go through this.”
The Swains have been told their story is unique, in that their son was not a small child or in a pool, but rather on a hunt in a recreational setting. Ryan was a 17-year-old avid hunter who had experience in the outdoors with his father since “he was old enough to go.”
“It’s not like he went off on a whim doing something he had never done – that morning I wasn’t expecting anything. When we first got the phone call that something was wrong, my first initial thought was that someone had gotten shot – four teenagers out there with guns. I never would have dreamed someone would drown – I certain wouldn’t have expected it was our son,” said Charles.
“The point we want to get across is just because you are a good swimmer, or just because you are athletic, young, in shape and cautious, no one is immune to this – this can happen to anyone at any time. We never dreamed this would happen to us,” said Christy. “Once you go through things, you start seeing things from a different perspective – when you are around water, you don’t necessarily think about it. It’s the little things people don’t think about.”
In addition, Ryan worked at Self Creek Marina on the dock, and was well versed in safety training classes.
And yet, as Christy states, “anything can happen,” so the foundation – as a first step — plans to work with Self Creek to provide life jackets for use around the water for anyone that needs one. They will then expand the program from there. “We want them to be available,” she said, stating that they would also provide educational materials for the recreational area to help explain why the lifejackets are available.
Whether through injury or through death, the Swains plan to use Ryan’s foundation to help in whatever way they can.
“Working with athletes – not just with injury, but up to and including the loss of a child, we want to reach out to these parents and visit with them and support them,” said Charles.
The Swains credit their religious faith – both as the factor that got them through their ordeal and their motivation to now help others.
“The one things that’s helped us get through this is our faith – and our faith is the main part of this foundation, because Ryan’s faith is what shaped his life and that’s what helped us carry through to get through those first two seconds, two minutes and now almost three years. If we didn’t have that with us, I’d be balled up in a corner somewhere,” stated Charles.
Initially the foundation will be starting in the Glenwood and Amity area, then expand outward “as far as it can go.”
“We don’t want it to just stay right here,” Christy said. “We want the communities involved in it with us – we want their involvement and support,” noting that the foundation’s motto and mantra is perseverance makes a difference. “It’s block by block that it is built.”
In another memory of Ryan, the foundation is sponsoring a 9 and 10 year old baseball team in Centerpoint this year.
“We did one last year, but this is the first one with the foundation – it was Ryan’s passion,” said Charles.
The Swains plan several community events in the near future.
“We’re hoping to do some good with this – we want to see some kids who need help get help,” said Charles.
Christy concluded by stating that with Memorial Day weekend approaching, the time for water safety awareness was very needed.
For more information on Ryan’s Call Foundation the Swain’s story, please visit their website at www.ryanscall.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ryanscall1155.