There With Care bags decorated by students at Buffalo Ridge Elementary school.
By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Sheri Flaherty
Buffalo Ridge Elementary (BRE) fifth grader Ryan Flaherty is spreading the message of love, both figuratively and literally, through her work with the Colorado-founded nonprofit There With Care.
There With Care’s mission is to provide a wide range of thoughtful and fundamental services to families and children during the critical phase of a medical crisis. After learning more about There With Care through neighbors involved with Bin Blessed (see related story from May 2015), Ryan Flaherty and her mom have been volunteering regularly.
On a tour of the Denver There With Care facility, Ryan’s mom, Sheri, learned clubs and school groups can decorate the paper grocery bags used in the food pantry. Sheri excitedly discussed the opportunity with her daughter, and Ryan wanted to participate.
Ryan asked her art teacher at BRE, Tim Ryckman, for help with a project for her charity using art. When she told her teacher they could decorate the grocery bags for the families that receive supplies from There With Care, he immediately agreed to help.
Ryan Flaherty and Tim Ryckman, proud creators of the “LOVE” bag, which was inspired by artist Robert Indiana.
Ryckman said, “Before we began the project, I looked at the list of words we could include on the bags and the word ‘love’ jumped out at me. I decided to turn the project into an art lesson about a pop artist named Robert Indiana who created a famous sculpture and painting with the word ‘love.’ We borrowed his style for the bags, and they turned out great.” With the help of Ryckman and his art students, 150 bags were decorated to provide a personal touch for those families experiencing stress due to a medical crisis.
Ryan is happy when she’s helping others. She’s motivated simply by “thinking about the smiles on their faces when they see that we were thinking about them and taking action for something important.” When asked about the best part of volunteering her time, Ryan said “Helping other people that may not be as healthy as I am. I also liked working with my teachers to make a difference.”
Ryan has taken her volunteering spirit one step further. She organized a food drive to fill the shelves at There With Care’s food pantry. She and her mom hosted a root beer float party for the fifth-grade class who donated the most cereal and pasta products. Giving service to others makes Ryan feel helpful. “I like the thought of helping other kids that may be sick and their families” she said.
For more information, or if your school or organization would like to show its support through art, send a request for blank bags to There With Care at www.therewithcare.org.