Most children spend the days leading up to their birthdays eagerly anticipating the many gifts they’ll receive.
Not Ryan Hubler. He spent the days leading up to his birthday eagerly anticipating the many gifts he’d give away.
For the past two years Ryan has used his birthday as a way to gather toys and gifts not for himself, but for children at local hospitals. Last year he donated $200 worth of toys to Strong Memorial Hospital’s Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, and last month he delivered more than 100 children’s items to F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua. Ryan gathered these items by asking guests at his last two birthday parties to forego giving him gifts and instead donate either items or funds to purchase items on the hospital’s toy wish lists.
The decision to hold such atypical birthday parties was an easy one, Ryan told the Catholic Courier.
“I already had a lot of stuff, and I didn’t want any more stuff,” 9-year-old Ryan explained simply.
Ryan’s attention toward hospitalized children stems from a scary incident his family endured shortly before his birthday in October 2007, said his mother, Lisa Hubler. The family was in Boston for a christening when Ryan’s 9-month-old sister started having severe breathing problems and had to be rushed to the hospital.
“My kids were stuck in the hospital for a good six or seven hours. They really experienced a children’s hospital, which they’d never been exposed to before, for a long day. They took walks with their dad and got to see a lot of children their age or younger with conditions they’d never seen before,” Hubler said.
After returning to his sister’s room after one of these walks, Ryan asked his mother what young patients did if they were hospitalized on their birthdays. Hubler said she didn’t really know, but the wheels already had started turning in Ryan’s head. He and his sister realized how bored children staying in the hospital must be, and learned not to be afraid of children with such diseases as cancer, Hubler said.
“He learned that there are kids in the hospital who are just like him or his little sister, and (illness or injury) can happen in a split second,” she said.
The Hubler family returned to Rochester several days later after Ryan’s sister recovered. As the Hublers prepared invitations for Ryan’s birthday party, Ryan announced that instead of gifts for him he wanted his friends to bring donations so he could purchase a child’s wagon for Children’s Hospital in Boston. More than a dozen of Ryan’s classmates from St. Agnes School in Avon came to his party and helped him raise $200, Hubler said.
The special wagons used at the Boston hospital cost $280, so instead Ryan and his mom asked Golisano Children’s Hospital for a wish list.
“So Ryan went shopping,” Hubler said.
She said she was proud of her son when he told her, “Mom, they’re just kids like me, so whatever I want they’re going to want too. There’s nothing wrong with how they’re thinking, just how they’re feeling.”
Last June the Hubler family moved to Canandaigua, where Ryan began third grade at St. Mary School. In October he again decided to use his birthday to benefit other children.
“I did it last year and I liked the idea so I wanted to do it again,” he said.
Ryan told his mom he wanted this year’s party to be even bigger and better so he could help more kids, so he invited his friends from both his old school in Avon and his new school in Canandaigua, Hubler said. The Hublers asked F.F. Thompson Hospital for its wish list ahead of time and included the list in Ryan’s party invitations.
Nearly two dozen children attended Ryan’s Oct. 19 Olympic-themed party. They and their families responded to his request with overwhelming generosity, donating more than 50 coloring books, 50 sets of crayons, 16 DVDs, 1,200 stickers and a number of pencils, books, colored paper and notepads, Hubler said,
“We got in the car after his party and … he said, ‘Mom, this was the best birthday ever, and we got so much stuff. I can’t wait to bring it to the hospital,'” Hubler said.
Ryan did just that last month, when he was off from school for Veterans Day. A number of the hospital’s administrators, doctors, nurses and board members were on hand to thank Ryan for his generosity.
“I felt good when I gave it to the doctors. (One) said thank you, and asked if I could do it again next year. I said I would,” Ryan said.
“He’s just quite a kid. He’s very good-hearted, and when we met him you could just tell he was a special person,” said Anita Pietropaolo, associate director of the F.F. Thompson Foundation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The F.F. Thompson Foundation asks that anyone interested in donating to the hospital first contact the foundation at 585-396-6155 to get a copy of the hospital’s wish list, as needs are constantly changing.