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I have to say that we're pretty lucky around here to have some amazing supporters. We hear stories fairly often of people going above and beyond to help provide families with the livestock and training they need to transform their lives. But for me, Ryan Bell's story has stood out from all the others.

Ryan, a 13-year-old from Wallingford, Conn., first came to our attention in 2010 after he convinced his family to donate to Heifer in their annual penny auction in 2009. He loved the animal component to our work, his mother Laura told us. The first year he raised $30. The next, $740. The year after that? Almost $9,000.

Ryan also happens to have Treacher Collins Syndrome, a cranio-facial disorder that affects the bone and soft tissue formation of the face. Despite his condition, which has affected his speech and hearing, Ryan has been a tireless Heifer champion. In 2012, after a series of surgeries, Ryan could finally breathe without a tracheotomy. It was that that proved to be a turning point for him both personally and in his fundraising.  

“I was excited when I saw the Gift of Transformation in the gift catalog because it reminds me of the transformation that I went through this year. I wasn’t excited to do this surgery and I wouldn’t have chosen it for myself. The doctor took my underdeveloped jaw and transformed my airway. It was a transformation for me,” Ryan said.

“I want to give my own Gift of Transformation to the world. 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. A Gift of Transformation can affect the lives of people in an entire village or community.”

“I don’t want to rely on a trach to breathe. I don’t want extra medical equipment and it would be great to not need a nurse or parent around at all times. I want my independence, just like these people want to be independent and take care of their own needs. They just need a different kind of assistance for their transformation; they need us.”

That first year, Ryan reached the $25,000 goal to buy a Gift of Transformation. But he didn't stop there. Ever since then, he's been on a quest to double that to $50,000, and he said he won't stop even if it takes him years to get there.

So, what if we helped him? What if strangers from around the world came together to give this boy a holiday season he'll never forget? To date, Ryan has raised $43,560. He's only $6,440 away from his goal. His Team Heifer page is still active, and you can help this remarkable young man reach his goal by donating today. 

Let's get him to $50,000. Together. 


Annie Bergman

Annie Bergman is a Global Communications Manager and helps plan, assign and develop content for the nonprofit’s website, magazine and blog. Bergman has interviewed survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, beekeepers in Honduras, women’s groups in India and war widows in Kosovo, among many others in her six years at Heifer.