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About Ryan

Ryan Gordon was born in 1986 with VATER Syndrome, a group of birth defects that included a severely affected esophagus. Constant esophageal aspiration throughout his young life caused Ryan to develop chronic lung disease, for which he was treated as if he had Cystic Fibrosis. In his first 16 years, Ryan underwent 13 corrective surgeries and over 30 operating room procedures. 

Throughout his struggles, Ryan was determined not to let his difficulties affect his quality of life or his zest for living...and throughout his life, Ryan gave where he saw the need, rallying others to do the same.  By the age of 9, he had raised money for the Pediatric Specialty Clinic at Yale New Haven Hospital by selling self-made books and putting on one-man Disney-movie plays in his garage.  A back-yard fair raised over $1,400 for the Wallingford Homeless Shelter.  

Upon his 8th grade graduation, Ryan received his school's Community Service Award for his efforts in raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis - efforts which continued through the end of his high school years.  When he graduated from high school, he received the school's award for perseverance and courage, and posthumously, he received the Unsung Hero Award from Cystic Fibrosis, which was presented to Ryan's parents at CF's annual Sportscasters Ball at Mohegan Sun.

An avid golfer (with a 10 handicap), a spirited hockey fan and a political science enthusiast, Ryan dreamed of being eith
er a sports broadcaster or a broadcast journalist. His dream took him to the University of Central Florida following his 2005 graduation, with honors, from high school. 

A week prior to his freshman year’s Thanksgiving break, Ryan knew that he was very sick and returned home. He was hospitalized at Yale-New Haven Hospital on Thanksgiving Day, 2005, with what was believed to be a lung infection. On New Year’s Eve he was placed on a ventilator. Three days later a wonderful oncology surgeon performed esophageal surgery; when that surgery did not improve his condition, his surgeon performed biopsies that tested positive for squamous cell carcinoma, believed to have formed in his esophagus.  

Six weeks later, on March 2, 2006, with his body riddled with cancer and still on a ventilator, Ryan passed away from septic shock. 

A week before he died, with the full knowledge that he would never benefit from his college fund, Ryan requested that the majority of this unused college fund be donated to several charities.  Unable to speak, Ryan wrote a note to his parents, saying that he would like to thank those organizations he believed helped him throughout his life, enable other kids to benefit from the education he’d never receive, and he explicitly wrote that, 'if people saw that a kid did this, maybe they'd do the same."  

With that note, Ryan’s legacy was sealed and he donated $70,000 to The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The Hartford Wolf Pack Community Foundation and the Kingswood-Oxford school (his alma mater).   Later, using donated funds, Barry and Phyllis added the Yale Cancer Center’s tissue bank, in honor of Ryan’s oncology surgeon, to the list. And in 2020, with the onslaught of COVID-19, the couple added the Connecticut Food Bank to the list of beneficiaries.

About Ryan's Circle of Giving

Ryan’s final act of generosity and love gave Phyllis & Barry a mission after the devastation of his death.  They knew they had to carry on Ryan’s legacy, and, in 2008, partnered with the Community Foundation of Middlesex County (CFMC) and created Ryan’s Circle of Giving (RCG), which is currently a fund held at CMFC. 

The day after he passed away, Beth Israel Synagogue in Wallingford, CT requested that their annual fundraising golf tournament, The Kiddush Cup, be renamed after one of its most enthusiastic volunteers and participants, Ryan. Thus, the Ryan C. Gordon Memorial Kiddush Cup Golf Outing was established.  

As Kiddush Cup co-chairs, Barry and Phyllis oversaw the phenomenal growth of this yearly fundraiser, from almost $4,000 in 2005, to over $13,000 in 2006, to over $26,000 in 2014.  In keeping with, and in honor of Ryan’s legacy, Beth Israel donated 50% of its proceeds to those organizations that are the beneficiaries of Ryan’s last wishes.  In all, donations exceeding $125,000 had been donated, through the end of 2014, to those charities that meant so much to Ryan.

After 15 years of leadership, Barry and Phyllis stepped down as co-chairs of the Kiddush Cup in 2014 and created another fundraiser…Ryan’s Circle of Giving Golf Classic…Cherishing Our Children.    

The success of this multi-generational event was greater than Phyllis and Barry could have ever imagined, with over $34,500 in net proceeds being raised in its first year, and over $36,500 raised in its 2nd year.

After 5 yeears of golf tournaments, Phyllis & Barry decided it was time to go a different route and created a Comedy Night event. Unfortunately, COVID deralied that plan and without too much blinking, the couple transitioned to a Zoom Comedy Night, raising over $24,000.  They are delighted with their newest Zoom adventure...Happy Hour on Broadway! scheduled for April, 2021.

In all, and including Ryan’s original donation, over $390,000 has been given to the 5 charities mentioned above in Ryan’s name, memory and legacy.