"Say Hey to Jay" Campaign Sends Hope and Letters to Florida Boy with Leukemia
He's just 10 years old, and leukemia has already robbed Jay Ryon of his childhood, his left arm, and his friends.
The Florida boy has been in and out of the hospital since he was first diagnosed with leukemia just weeks before his seventh birthday. Jay's mom, Maggie Ryon, told Today that her son went through more than two years of chemotherapy treatments before going into remission. During the weeks and months spent in the hospital, Jay became friends with a handful of other pediatric cancer patients. Those friendships gave him hope.
Then last year Jay relapsed, and needed a bone marrow transplant from his father. But a compromised immune led to a fungal infection that resulted in the amputation of his left arm. Today, Jay is in the middle of an eight-month hospital stay, and is fighting yet another fungal infection, this time in his hip, right arm, and pelvis.
During this most recent hospital stay, Today reports that Jay's grandmother died suddenly. Then his best friend, who had a bone-marrow transplant around the same time as Jay did, also died one month later.
"Then, three of his friends that had gone through transplants died within a week of each other, and that was incredibly hard for him," Maggie recalled. "And he made the comment one day that he didn't have any friends anymore because they all died — which led to him questioning if he was going to die, too."
So Maggie turned to Team Jay, the Facebook group she and her husband created shortly after Jay's diagnosis, for support. Marcie Golgoski, a local news anchor for WESH, is one of the group's 10,000+ members.
"The last six months have been so heartbreaking ... I have been reduced to tears just reading their ups and downs," Golgoski told Today Parents. "There is a spirit and a light within this family that I, and thousands of others, are just in awe of. So when it seemed that spirit had maybe begun to fade, I just felt overwhelmed (and had) to do something."
Golgoski reached out to her colleagues at WESH, and asked for their help promoting "Say Hey to Jay," a campaign to send him letters. To date, Jay has received nearly 1,000 pieces of mail.
Though he loves getting mail, he saw it as an opportunity to do more.
"As much as Jay loves getting the mail — the first thing he said was, 'Well, they should donate to Kids Beating Cancer, too. If they're going to send me a letter, they could send them a dollar.'"
Kids Beating Cancer is the organization that funds the transplant unit at the Orlando hospital that treats Jay. To help, the organization even created a special link for people to donate $1 and "Say Hey to Jay."
You might also be interested in:
"It's one thing to send the cute, little bald kid a card," Maggie noted. "But it's quite another to actually make a real impact on the work that's being done so there aren't any more cute, little bald kids."
To "Say Hey to Jay," mail cards and letters to: The Ryon Family, 31600 Camp Challenge Rd, Sorrento, FL 32776. Click here to donate $1 to Kids Beating Cancer.