Why I Ride for Ryther: Siri’s Story

On July 13-14, a team of seven Ryther supporters, including six staff members, will be cycling 202 miles from Seattle to Portland to raise awareness and funds for Ryther.  Siri Gillespie is one of these riders. Read on to see what inspired Siri to ride:

R4RAs I begin my back-to-back 50+ mile training bike rides this week, my battle wounds will be the only reminder I need that I must keep going.  I have a large bruise and scrapes on the back of my leg, puncture wounds on my hands, and an open sore on my ankle.  This was not due to one of the many minor crashes I’ve had upon my bicycle, but the result of a Razor scooter accident I was involved in while supervising children at Ryther’s Cottage C.

This summer Cottage C has introduced an exercise program to encourage healthy habits in our clients.  Prior to earning the privilege of playing video games and watching movies for activity time, the children of Cottage C must complete at least 20 minutes of exercise.  Yesterday we held a cottage-wide kickball game.  Today, the kids I was supervising chose to ride Razor scooters.

Being the athletic, well-trained cyclist I consider myself to now be, I couldn’t have been more excited!  The children led me on a wild follow-the-leader game that ended with me careening down a pebbled sidewalk in the rain on one of the Cottage scooters.  In my attempt to slow down on a hill, I inevitably fishtailed on wet cement and crashed.  One girl I was supervising, an anxious and impulsive pre-teen, rushed to my side with a look of concern on her face.  The other girl, a quiet, yet precocious 9-year-old looked on in silent horror awaiting my reaction.

I looked around, looked at my bloodied hands, and hoped the pain I was feeling didn’t show on my face.  The pre-teen exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, Siri, are you OK?!”  “Yes, I’m fine,” I replied, “Thank you.”  The pre-teen put her hand on my shoulder as I winced as I stood up.  “Oh my gosh, you’re bleeding!”  In that moment, I recognized something I’d never truly seen in that young woman.  It was empathy.  “I’m ok.  Ouch, let’s walk inside,” I said as I limped toward the cottage.  That pre-teen checked on me twice more that morning to assure I was alright.

My wounds were superficial, but the impact of the experience was not.  The young woman, who spends much of her time consumed by the residual effects of extreme trauma and internalized low self-worth, typically has little time to outwardly express concern for others.  In this case, and for the first time I’ve witnessed, her concern for someone else and the relationship she’d built with me seemed to supersede her perpetual inner turmoil.  It is for that young lady I will ride for.  It is that young girl; that split moment when she was able to create a space between herself and her trauma to make room for a trusting relationship she’d built; it is her I will ride for.

Click here to make a contribution to Ride for Ryther.  

3 COMMENTS

Thank you

Yesterday, November 10 2011 Ryther had its annual fund raising luncheon and thanks to so many kind and generous people it was a huge success. I want to especially thank our inspirational keynote speaker John Stanton, Jean Enersen for her customary outstanding job as emcee, and Josh our client speaker for his compelling story. Of course I also want to thank everyone who attended and donated to the cause.
IIt was a good event and I think told the Ryther story effectively.

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Ryther Annual Fundraising Luncheon

Ryther is very fortunate to have a dedicated board of trustees, whose members each year comb their address books and convince colleagues, family, friends and corporate VPs to come together for a good cause:

Ryther’s annual fundraising luncheon. This year, it’s November 10th at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.

Without our board, we would not be able to present such inspiring keynote speakers as Diane Irvine, Bill Gates Sr., Jim Donald, Blake Nordstrom, Howard Schultz and many other upstanding citizens and business leaders. This year, Ryther Trustee Karl Quackenbush connected with John Stanton, our keynote speaker. A wireless industry pioneer, Stanton co-founded three top 10 wireless operators in the United States in the last 25 years and is presently chairman of Clearwire. The theme for the luncheon is Connect for Kids, with the obvious allusion to Stanton’s wireless industry. But it’s also a very relevant and important aspect to the children and families Ryther serves.

At Ryther, connections are everything.

It’s the earliest connections we have to a caregiver that helps our brains connect the way they should.  Conversely, our brain can be wired to expect the worse if that’s what we’ve experienced daily.

It’s how we connect our thoughts and feelings to our behaviors. It’s how children at Ryther try to connect what they’ve experienced to their sadness or rage and how to deal and work through these emotions. It’s the connection a child here makes to a therapy dog – a warm-blooded animal they can touch and hug and receive affection from in a safe, unconditional way.

It’s the moment a teen in Cottage B realizes that some of his past connections are detrimental to his future success. Positive change happens when parents learn the skills to reconnect with a child they haven’t parented for years or their sullen, distant teen. When a teen that has masked his depression with drugs or alcohol can connect with his own sense of self, new avenues open.

We invite everyone who wants to help foster healthier connections for those who need them most to come together and connect for kids on Thursday, November 10th. Connect with your circle and if you can host a table, bring a guest, please connect with Clay Thompson at Ryther at clayt@ryther.org.

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