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Ardagh Bluffs student honours late father with school fundraiser

After his dad died four years ago from cancer, Ryan Webster raised more than $1,200 for Gilda's Club Simcoe Muskoka

Ryan Webster is working hard to keep the memory of his father alive while also raising money to support a local charity.

The Grade 7 student at Ardagh Bluffs Public School in south-end Barrie recently raised more than $1,200 for Gilda’s Club Simcoe Muskoka by selling snacks — including chips and KoolAid Jammers — during the school’s 'Snow Much Fun' winter festival on Dec. 15.

The idea came about after students began working on what special education resource teacher Becky Kennedy told BarrieToday was their “genius hour project.”

“They get to choose a topic of interest. Last year, Ryan, 12, created a store to raise money for the food bank (and) he was able to raise over $1,000 with the help of his classmates," Kennedy said. 

This year, Webster said he wanted to do something that would help honour his father, who died from stomach cancer four years ago.

“I went and asked the principal, then eventually I concluded it should be for my dad, because he had cancer,” he said. “My dad died, so I thought I could maybe make my dad proud about my decision.”

Webster, acknowledged his mom Eva, has always been an “entrepreneurial-type of kid,” adding for this year’s Snow Much Fun festival, he decided he wanted to do another “store” to raise money for a local charity. 

“He said he wanted to do it in memory of his dad. They asked me what charities were good, and I said Gilda’s Club was a really great place in Barrie that helped us a lot during that time,” Eva told BarrieToday.

When her husband was first diagnosed, Eva said the local charity — which supports people impacted by cancer — helped the family by providing a variety of educational and support services, including camps for kids.

The fact her son chose a charity that helped them through their own challenging time was a heartwarming surprise.

“We really think it’s an organization that is helpful to the community with a lot of people having cancer, so having not just that support, but the programs too … is important," she said. 

Kennedy said Ryan planned, organized and met with the school’s principal to ensure that his efforts followed school policies as part of his learning process, and he also recruited his classmates and family to help with his booth.

“I am very fortunate to teach such an incredible group of students. Our focus each day is building a community of learners who truly care about each other and about making the world a better place,” she said. “I am so proud of Ryan for thinking beyond himself and about the community around him. He inspires me to be a better teacher and a better person every day.”