Middletown, NJ – At the ninth and final Ryan’s Run on Saturday evening, standing before a crowd of 600 loyal runners, and close to a few hundred additional supporters, the Ryan’s Run race committee said their last goodbye to the runners who they also referred to as “family” and have supported this event for the past nine years.
Ryan’s Run has been the largest fundraiser of the Ryan Andrew Memorial Foundation (RAKMF), a 501-c3 charitable organization established in 2003 after the sudden and unexpected death of Ryan Kaiser. Ryan, the 6-year-old son of Andy and Lauren Kaiser was born with Congenital Heart Disease and had three open-heart surgeries before he was two years old.
Though runners always anticipate a warm and poignant message from Andy Kaiser, this year few words were spoken, and Kaiser promised – instead – that the committee’s final thoughts would be found on the racecourse. After a commemorative grouping of red balloons was launched into the sky, the final race was run with participants meandering through the bucolic run among twenty signs reflecting positive thoughts and remembrances of the run; words of wisdom if you will from the race committee.
The race has been a local favorite among runners and philanthropists alike due in part to its well-crafted course of trails and roads through Middletown’s scenic horse country and serenity of Huber Woods but also for its family-friendly and warm-hearted appeal made possible by the Kaisers and their grassroots committee.
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Introducing race committee members, Lauren Kaiser, Paul and Stephanie Beck, Mario Gagliano, Mike Meyers, Kathy Lewandowski and Onalie Gagliano, Kaiser said, “One of the reasons this race has been so successful is because of the dedicated committee and volunteers; I couldn’t do it without you guys.”
In celebration of the final run, the 5K culminated with a tented event complete with live band and food for the ravenous runners and their families provided by the Middletown locations of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill.
Later in the evening, Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Vin Zales was called on stage and presented with a $50,000 gift to the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital which, Kaiser said, is a direct reflection of each runner’s support this year.
Steve Littleson, President of Jersey Shore University Medical Center, had gifts to share as well: a framed thank you card signed by each of the children currently under their care for the comfort and assistance the Kaisers have helped bring to their stay.
“We have improved services for the children and those that have participated in Ryan’s Run can rest assured that we have done that because of their generosity through the years,” said Littleson.
Dr. Nasser Ani, This year’s tent sponsor, who learned of the event from his wife Samar Shami, a loyal runner with the Mommy Moves group, wanted to be a part of something that was “bigger than us” and give back to the community in a meaningful way.
“It’s unfortunate to have a tragedy in order to create something meaningful like this,” said Dr. Ani. “What’s important to reflect on is that Ryan did not die in vain; we are very pleased and honored to be able to help people through this initiative.”
Kaiser said the RAKMF has many plans for the future, not the least of which is modeling a biannual event after the fun-filled, post-race event where supporters danced the night away and shared memories and laughs with old and new faces.
“Ryan’s Run may be a memory,” he said, “but this is not goodbye.”
For more information about the RAKMF please visit www.ryansrun.org or call Andy Kaiser directly at 888-664-9522.