For the parents of Ryan Tucker, September will always hold special meaning. Ryan was born on September 27. This year, he would have turned 25. Ryan was a student at Metropolitan State University when he took his own life in 2012, at the age of 19.
For the past six years, Ryan’s two sets of parents—Floyd and Rhonda Dickerson and Art and Celeste Tucker—have paid tribute to his memory through the Essence of Ryan event, which brings friends, family, and community together to celebrate Ryan’s life and legacy. In the first five years, Essence of Ryan benefited Family Tree, Denver Rescue Mission, the Delores Project, Aurora Warms the Night, and Aurora Interfaith Community Services. Through a donor-advised fund at The Denver Foundation, the family also made a financial contribution to each organization.
At this year’s Essence of Ryan event, nearly 80 volunteers spent the day making more than 300 fleece, no-sew blankets, which were then delivered to Comitis Crisis Center in Aurora. Comitis helps men, women, families, and veterans who are experiencing homelessness. On the day the blankets were delivered, staff reported it was a true blessing, as the center had nearly run out.
Essence of Ryan
Ryan’s stepfather, Floyd Dickerson, shared some thoughts on the event and Ryan’s spirit of generosity.
Why did you decide to place homelessness at the center of your tribute to Ryan?
Volunteering was something Ryan grew up with, whether feeding seniors Thanksgiving dinner at The Retirement Enlisted Association with me and his mom or going along to watch his father donate blood at Bonfils Blood Center. While Ryan attended Metro State, we noticed he was spending an enormous amount of money on food each month in addition to his campus meal plan. It wasn’t until his Metro State student memorial service that we learned he’d been using the extra money to feed several people he’d befriended who were homeless. It was something he inspired his other friends to do as well. Ryan also volunteered at a nearby homeless shelter.
As you know, vulnerable families and individuals in our community go without proper food, shelter, and essential medical care every day due to a variety of factors. Giving them blankets is a practical way to help them and also to let them feel that someone cares about them. Each blanket has a label sewn into it, identifying it as an Essence of Ryan blanket.
In addition to honoring Ryan, what are your goals for the Essence of Ryan event?
Essence of Ryan is a true community event. In the first year or two it was mainly friends and family. Now we see people from across the community showing up to help. In addition to supporting the particular nonprofits that receive the blankets, and helping the individuals who receive those blankets, we hope the event will encourage volunteerism in young people and create an awareness of homelessness within our community.
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