Ever since we received a letter about Ryan Bell almost three years ago, we've known there was something extra special about him. He hasn't had the easiest go in life, but he's never let his differences stand in his way. And despite his hardships, Ryan has always wanted to make life easier for others.
As a 10-year old, Ryan convinced his family that they really could be doing more with their annual penny auction fundraiser that benefited both Heifer and a local charity. He just wasn't satisfied with the amount they were able to donate.
In the past two years, with the help of his family, friends and his community, Ryan has raised nearly $40,000 for Heifer International. And he just doesn't quit. When Ryan reached his lofty goal of raising $25,000 for Heifer just before Christmas of 2012, his first thought was that he should go for another Gift Ark, or $5,000 more. When he reached THAT goal, he immediately said he wanted to go for $50,000.
His giving spirit hasn't just captured the attention of those of us here at Heifer, either. Laura Bell, Ryan's Mom, just let us know that Ryan's team of teachers at his school in Connecticut recently nominated him for the Kohl's Cares Scholarship.
That scholarship is given by the retailer every year to recognize "young volunteers across the country for their amazing contributions to their communities," the Kohl's website says. The criteria for the scholarship indicate that volunteer efforts must have occurred in the last year, and that winners are selected based on the benefits and outcomes of their volunteer service.
With Ryan's record of fundraising, and his reputation at school as a Student of the Month and as part of the Student Government group where he's organized other fundraisers, his team of teachers put together the nomination form and essay and submitted it on Ryan's behalf.
"He was too funny," Laura said. "The six teachers called him into a room which was otherwise empty. He said it looked like he was in trouble and they joked with him that he was and then presented the certificate. He was so excited!"
Laura said there are winners at the local, regional and national level, but Ryan won't find out if he's a winner of the local scholarship until May.The regional winner will be announced in June and the national winner in July. Prizes range from a $50 gift card to the store up to a $10,000 in scholarship for National Winners.
Whatever the outcome, we're proud just to know Ryan. It's an honor knowing he's our supporter, and is sharing our mission with others. So good luck, Ryan! We'll be anxiously awaiting to hear whether you've been selected for the scholarship. You should know you're already a winner to all of us here at Heifer.
To help Ryan reach his $50,000 goal, visit his Team Heifer page.