Student Grateful for Firestone Family Support

Classmates Rally for Ryan
Posted on 03/12/2018
Image of Firestone Rally for Ryan(courtesy Cassaundra Smith Akron.com/West Side Leader)

Firestone Community Learning Center (CLC) students have banded together in support of Ryan Hayes, a classmate who for the past few weeks has been battling the flu and subsequent complications.

Ryan, a 15-year-old sophomore at Firestone CLC, is a member of the school’s symphonic choir, as well as the men’s chorus. According to school officials, a little more than two weeks ago, the symphonic choir traveled to Chicago to attend a professional national conference of music directors. When Ryan returned from the trip, he became ill with the flu and was hospitalized in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Ryan has suffered from complications including pneumonia and organ failure, school officials said. After being in critical condition for nearly two weeks, APS officials reported that Ryan, while still in the PICU, is doing better.

Gwen Hayes, Ryan’s mother, said she cannot ask for a better team than the staff at Akron Children’s Hospital. She said even one of the hospital’s janitors told her, “I have to tell you, our church is praying for you every day, and we are praying for your son.’”

In fact, prayers are pouring in from all over the world for her son, she said.

While Ryan has been recovering, his Firestone classmates have been raising funds for the family and staging different activities in his honor.

Image of Firestone Rally for Ryan

The Firestone CLC women’s chorus, men’s chorus and symphonic choir recently competed in the regional Ohio Music Education Association adjudicated event. While Ryan couldn’t be there, the students, in a sense, took him along anyway, school officials said.

According to Chad Pittman, director of choirs at Firestone CLC’s Akron School for the Arts, the choirs signed and decorated posters and put sayings on them like, “we miss you” and “we wish you were here.” Students took photos with the posters and sent them to the Hayes family, he said.

Gwen Hayes said she has been thankful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, prayers and support received from the community, the schools and her church family at Grace Church. In addition to Firestone CLC, the family has received support from Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts, where she teaches piano.

The choral department also orchestrated a fundraiser for the family, in which it matched what students raised, Pittman said. The Firestone CLC bowling team also donated to the Hayes family proceeds from a recent fundraiser held at Chipotle, school officials said.

Seeing groups of students come together for Ryan reminds Gwen Hayes that “each individual matters,” she said.

According to Pittman, a prayer circle was also held at the school. While it was supposed to take place outside, rain moved it to the choir room. More than 100 students packed into the choir room and joined one another in prayer and silence, he said.

“It was so inspiring to me,” he said.

Cards have been sent to the Hayes family and other fundraising activities also have been arranged, Pittman said.

One fundraiser involves students wearing blue to school, as that is Ryan’s favorite color, his mom said.

“It’s just been huge,” Gwen Hayes said. “I’m very humbled by it. I just stand back and go ‘God, thank you.’”

Image of Firestone Rally for Ryan
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