Whispering Ridge Community School has a banner to hang in the new school, after winning the inaugural Ryan Wagner Memorial Award. The school was presented the award for raising over $5,000 dollars for the 3D Children’s Charity last year, the most money raised by all the schools in Grande Prairie for the charity.
The award is in memory of Ryan Wagner, a Grande Prairie boy who was diagnosed with a rare disease as a child, Severe Combined Immune Deficiency. The disease compromised his immune system, and he was extremely susceptible to illnesses. In February of 2016, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and after a short battle with cancer, he passed away in November 2016, at the age of 19.
Before his passing, Ryan attended IV Macklin and Grande Prairie Composite High School. He had a passion for paleontology and worked at the Phillip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. He also had a love for comic books, especially Spider-Man.
Ryan’s mother, Donna, was present at the award ceremony, where she spoke to the school children packed in the gymnasium. She told them Ryan’s story, and how grateful she is that her son’s name can live on.
“We are incredibly humbled, honoured, and actually blown out of the water that he’s made such a mark on so many people in the community, especially the 3D Charity. All the children throughout the years that have played in the tournaments, that have supported us, is remarkable. They are our true heroes because they have led us to live a more typical life with Ryan, and we are so grateful.”
Ryan and the Wagners had been beneficiaries of the 3D Children’s Charity since he was in the second grade, using funds from the charity to help with medical bills and trips to hospitals in Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto.
Donna adds that the Wagners plan on being involved with the charity when the mourning period has passed and they are back on their feet as a family.
Darren Foley, founder and chair of the 3D Children’s Charity, says naming this award after Ryan was an easy decision to make, as he meant a lot to everyone who knew him.
“He was just an inspiration to everybody because he was never ‘Oh, woe is me.’ He always had a smile, no matter what obstacles he had. He just persevered, and he was a hero to all of us who knew him. So to have Ryan’s name hang in the gymnasium here is such an honour, and it’s so important to us.”
The children at Whispering Ridge Community school raised the money through fundraising events, as well as 3D’s annual soccer and hockey tournaments. Principal Shawn O’Shea says they had a lot of turnout, donations, and participation from students, families, and teachers in raising these funds and being a part of events, of which he’s very proud.
“Both our students and our community have been amazing contributors to our school, so it really signifies the willingness of the community to go above and beyond for support of these kinds of initiatives. It’s humbling to be a part of this school.”
The money raised by the 3D Children’s Charity is used to financially support local families who have children battling serious illnesses.In the past 20 years, over a $1-million has been raised by the charity, and used to support hundreds of Grande Prairie families who need help affording the treatments for their children, traveling to hospitals, or paying bills.
This is the inaugural year for the Ryan Wagner Memorial Award and Foley says he hopes it will help inspire other schools to become more involved and raise even more money for local children, who are in need of serious medical treatments.