“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” said Mother Teresa. It’s the ripple effect – do good things, share your good deeds.
Ryan Lanford had big plans – always. Diagnosed with 22q in 1994, he wanted to be a running back for the Carolina Panthers. He wanted to sing on American Idol – as he knew he could win. He loved being on his beloved scooter and scouting the neighborhood for anyone that needed their car washed or just some help. At one point he worked three jobs, only a few hours at each – but he knew how to hustle. He loved to play the lottery, especially when he won. He loved to play it even more when he lost, optimistic that he would win the next time. He viewed the world through the eyes of a child… believing that anything was possible. He loved his MP3 player, his Etch A Sketch and he loved coloring. He also had a love for NASCAR. He lived in the past, present and future all at the same time. He was complicated yet simple.
As part of his 22q diagnosis at the age 16, some of his medical issues were heart failure, kidney failure, scoliosis, conductive hearing loss, speech impediments, mild mental retardation, paranoia and more. Over his lifetime, he was given multiple diagnoses (Autism, Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, Intellectually Disabled, Developmentally Disabled, Mental Retardation). With all those labels – friends, family and strangers knew him as Mr. Wonderful. That was his line…that’s how he would introduce himself.
As I said, he had big plans – he wanted to make a difference. He wanted to get married, have a nice place to live and have children. I wanted that for him too. But this was not meant to be. There was a different path for him and for me. Between 2014 and 2016 Ryan struggled with heart and kidney issues and he would always get better. Not this time. Ryan lived for 37 years – living a full, happy and challenging life. On April 10, 2016 his big heart gave out and we celebrated his life the way he would have.
Once you lose someone, you’re changed forever. There is never enough time on this earth for those that we love the most. Although Ryan is no longer with us physically, his life touched so many people and I want to share that with you.
When I lost him, it was unimaginable – what has happened since that time is also unimaginable. I have a small business and last year I had the opportunity to add a line of handmade pottery from Noelle VanHendrick (ZPots) that is beautiful and inspirational. The pottery has words hand inscribed on it such as “Happy,” “Joy,” “Forgive,” “Hope,” “Strength,” “Laughter” and many more. Over time, I got to know Noelle and shared stories of Ryan. I learned in late 2020 that she was going to add the word “Wonderful” to her line in honor of Ryan.
In the spirit of doing good things, I wanted to take this a step further and give back the proceeds of the “Cups of Wonderful”to the international 22q11.2 Foundation to fuel their mission of raising awareness, helping communities, education and awareness.
I also learned earlier this year that Luis Hernandez, one of Ryan’s AFL providers would be opening a business called Ryan’s Place. The goal is to help families and individuals secure the services for their loved one with Intellectual and Developmental disabilities. Ryan finally has his place. Ryan’s Place had their ribbon cutting on May 21, 2021 which coincides with Ryan’s birthday.
Ryan had big plans and I’m glad he did. As he would say, “ain’t life grand.”
To learn more and about the handmade pottery and to order click here.
To learn more about Ryan’s Place click here.
To purchase visit our webstore here.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story.
A special note from Noelle of Zpots
ZPOTS has joined Juelerye and the International 22q11.2 Foundation in raising awareness of the genetic disorder 22q11.2. Noelle connected deeply with Jacqueline of Juelerye around the loss of her son Ryan who had 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. The cup of wonderful is inspired by Ryan’s love of the world; curiosity and his nickname “Mr. Wonderful”. The cup’s color choices are an expression of Ryan, his favorite color purple and his orange wild hair. Proceeds will be given to the International 22q11.2 Foundation to fuel their mission of raising awareness, helping communities and research.