With the Holiday season approaching, here is an amazing story about an inspirational 11 year-old boy from Wallingford. Ryan Bell was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, or TCS, a cranio-facial disorder that affects the soft tissue and bone formation of the face. TCS has caused Ryan’s cheek, eye, ear, and jaw bones to be slightly malformed. Due to the malformation of his ears, he has significant hearing loss and has to wear special hearing aids. Up until a month ago, Ryan used a tracheotomy to help him breath, as his small jaw hindered his breathing.
Ryan has endured 36 surgeries over his lifetime. Earlier this year, Ryan went through a reconstructive surgery to lengthen his jaw to open his airway. During the weeks that followed, he had to re-learn how to talk and eat since his tongue and jaw were in different places than before the surgery. At an early age, his parents taught both he and his sister Meghan the importance of giving back. Each Holiday season the Bell family helps others through fundraising and donations. A few years ago, they received the Heifer International gift catalog. With their children’s love of animals and passion for giving back, Laura and Ted Bell knew that this would be the perfect fundraising opportunity for Ryan and Meghan. Heifer’s mission - working with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth through passing on the gift of livestock and training - was the Thanksgiving lesson the Bell’s were looking for to teach their children.
The first year of adopting Heifer International as their Holiday fundraising project, Ryan and Meghan donated $30 for a trio of rabbits, and each year since, they have increased the amount they hope to raise. Last year, the siblings had a goal of $850 needed for a camel, and they ended up raising $8,615 – enough for a Gift Ark, the Knitters basket, Cheeses of the World Gift Basket, a heifer, a water buffalo, ducks, sheep, a school of fish, trees, chicks, and geese!
This holiday season, Ryan has an even bigger goal - $25,000 for the Gift of Transformation. For Ryan, this was the obvious gift idea. He went through a transformation of his own this year, and this transformation acts as the inspiration of his Heifer goal. Ryan said in an article published in Heifer International’s magazine World Ark, “I want to send herds of heifers, llamas, and goats, flocks of sheep and chickens, a pen of pigs, a school of fish and a gaggle of geese to an underdeveloped area of the world and let a transformation take place as the gift is received, utilized and passed along. I want to give my own Gift of Transformation to the world.”
Help us spread Ryan’s story!