Let me introduce myself, I am Ryan's second cousin. At least I think that's right. His mom, Samantha, is my first cousin, so that makes him my second cousin, right? Anyway, our mothers are sisters.
Sam's always been a few years ahead of me - pretty much always knowing how to do stuff I wanted to be able to do. As children, I was a tomboy, Sam was glam. I chewed my nails, Sam painted hers perfectly. And don't get me started on eyeshadow...at 42, I still can't put that stuff on right; Sam could've been a Covergirl makeup model at 16.
We grew up together (like, in the same house at times), but haven't lived near enough for daily contact in decades. So when she had Ryan, I wasn't there. When she came to terms with his diagnosis with Down Syndrome (DS), I wasn't there. When she took him to thousands of therapy appointments, fought the system for the support that Ry needed at school, and insisted that they make him repeat Kindergarten until he knew how to spell his name, I wasn't there.
You know who was? Her neighbors, school workers, Ry's teacher's aid (pictured above - in purple - with Ry on first day of school), his babysitter, his teachers. Did I mention the neighbors?! I don't know mine. Sam's are her family now. She and I don't sit on the bed talking like we did as kids, her neighbors do that.
And now the house Ryan has lived in since birth is in foreclosure, there's a hearing mid-December, and I am as inept at helping her with this as I am at applying makeup. I can't write a check. I'm still "not there." Writing & posting this is me trying to be there.
More about Ryan:
OMG. Ry-Ry. Ryan is crazy amazing. He is in 5th grade at Hawk Hallow Grade School in Bartlett, plays basketball on Carol Stream's special needs basketball team and cheered for Believe, a special needs cheer program. I mean, seriously, it's not enough that he brings cheer wherever he goes, he is an actual flippin' cheerleader?!
Here's what his mama says: "I understand a lot of people are losing their homes now and I would've already let go of mine if not for Ryan. My fight to keep my home is a fight to keep Ryan in his school, with the same teachers aid and same community support. Ryan has Down Syndrome and is very much a guy of routine. Our family here is our neighborhood as he was born & raised in this house. Everyone knows, loves & looks out for him in his school & in his neighborhood. I have spent countless hours advocating for him to participate in an inclusion classroom & to keep the same teacher's aid since Kindergarten. Without these funds we will be forced to leave our home & turn his small world upside down."
Ryan has a 10yo brother, Sammy, and a 21yo sister, Lindsay (a hardworker herself, who was forced to leave college to work when Samantha lost her job) at home, as well as loving & involved adult half-siblings Spencer, Trevor, Nicole & Kelly, all of whom travel home from Ohio & Michigan as frequently as possible to hang out with their little bro.
More about Sam:
Sam is self-made. My cousins all grew up without much & have had to be tenacious, but I've honestly never seen someone work as hard as Sam. She got her first job at 16, working as an aide in a nursing home. 15 years later, she was pulling down 6 figures as a Marketing Director for a chain of nursing homes in Chicagoland. Who woulda thought it?
With the economic turndown, Sam was unemployed for the one year in her adult life that she has not had a job. I've never known someone to pound the pavement like she did - she looked everywhere, at anything, and waitressed to pay bills. She knew immediately she would be in trouble, contacted Bank of America, and sent partial mortgage payments, but they were returned.
Being without health insurance didn't mean Ryan and the rest of the fam didn't need care, so she's racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills. (We aren't trying to raise money for that, just the amount needed to save the house and Ryan's access to his support system.)
Last month, Sam found a job! It's at half the pay, but enough to cover her mortgage and bills. This is where the system starts to seem downright insane:
- When Sam was first unemployed, the bank refused partial payments.
- Sam applied for a loan modification immediately upon losing her job. She was denied for making too much money.
- Sam applied for a loan modification a second time while unemployed. She was denied for making too little money.
- Sam applied for a loan modification now that she is again employed. She was denied because she is 14 months past due, and the cutoff for modification is 12 months.
- Sam was finally given a number for Illinois Hardest Hit, and was told they could've helped her if she'd called when unemployed.
- Sam applied for a Link card (foodstamps in Illinois), a medical card (health insurance), and other government assistance. She was denied because her college-aged daughter's income was used in the calculation and put them a few dollars a month over the limit.
- Sam appealed the above. And was denied.
- Now that she's fallen behind & loan modification has been denied, Sam must make a large payment in order to hold off foreclosure.
At this point, Sam needs $9k in order to temporarily stave off foreclosure and $33,296 to bring her mortgage payments current (16 months x $2081 payment = $33,296).*
I'm asking for your help because I know how to do this and don't know what else to do. I woke up this morning (12/3), checked Twitter, saw that $17k had been raised to help a political cartoonist save his home on indiegogo, & thought - wait! - we could tell Ryan's story, too, and see what happens. Thank you for taking time to learn about Sam, Ryan & their family. They rock.
*We've had some questions about this, so I'd like to clarify: If Sam can bring her payments to within 12 months of delinquency, which at this point is about $9k, she can reapply for a loan modification. This is our initial fundraising goal. We will post updates as we go along. Thank you.
UPDATE 12/4: We have over $1k raised on the site and an off-site pledge of $2k (more info to come on that!), along with many people offering to help - THANK YOU. For now, 100% of funds will be held here on Fundly. We want people to know that 100% of their money (after Fundly's modest processing fee) is going to the bank toward the house and so will post more info as we go along, as well as documentation.
UPDATE 12/5: We are forming a 501(c)3, BofA has contacted Sam, we have so many wonderful people stepping forward to help - it's overwhelming. Thank you. We post more frequent updates on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KeepRyanHome.
From Sam: "It is hard for me to believe that two days ago, I was completely afraid of how my situation would end. [I] see there is hope, and people out there that are willing to help. I am so grateful to all the people that are supporters & donors. Thank you all so much for all the support and kind words. I am so blessed! Xo ~Sam"
UPDATE 12/7: Sam has a hearing a week from today and we are almost half way to our initial goal of $9k. We are hoping to hear something from BofA soon and have been acquainting ourselves (with the help of Benefit Planning Consultants, Champaign) with non-profit formation. Whew. :) We'll keep you posted on our progress.
UPDATE 12/9: THANK YOU to Joanna Strauss Photography for donating yesterday's photo shoot - Sam will have family pics for the first time in a couple years to give as gifts for Christmas. Also, from the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/KeepRyanHome), an update from Sam:
"Hope everyone is having a great weekend... I thought I would share with you some exciting news. So, the boys and I went to church this morning and when we got back in the car to leave I had a missed call from the office of CEO & VP of social media for Bank of America. WOW! on a sunday. The very nice lady shared with me the she had received a number of request and tweets for the bank to look at my story and review my documents for a modification.I should be receiving a call tomorrow from the "team" that is assigned to my account. (crazy there is a team now) I can't believe how blessed I am to have so many people that are so kind and willing to offer support to me and my family. Without all your support, tweets, shares on FB and prayers I know that this call would not have come on any day of the week. But it did come and on a Sunday. I am so grateful to all of you!! Much love to you al and God Bless you!! -Sam xo"
UPDATE 12/10: People have been messaging asking if there's something to do for the family for Christmas. Sam says, "I am so grateful for all the help...Keeping my home would be the greatest christmas gift ever." Buuut we are talking about two little boys who still believe in Santa; one who won't for very much longer and one who might for a very long time. So I took their Toys R Us flyer, with all its circles, and put it on an Amazon Wish List. If you'd like to contribute something, anything purchased will ship directly to their home: http://amzn.to/VvXbBu
UPDATE 12/14: Sorry for not so many updates lately. We are just plugging away. (We post quick updates more often on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KeepRyanHome ) (or search #KeepRyanHome on Twitter)Samantha has been getting gifts delivered from the Amazon list - THANK YOU! We had a bit of a scare today...Sammy had a med interaction and had to go to the ER for breathing issues, but he is ok now. We are all more grateful than we're able to convey here for everyone's good wishes & help and will update you as we move along w fundraising and when we hear from Bank of America, presumably next week. Hoping for peace today for all of you, especially in the wake of today's unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut.
UPDATE 12/19: Six days before Christmas and Bank of America has approved a loan modification that changes Sam & boys' lives. All we can say is THANK YOU. We will post details and more stories soon.
CONTACT US W ANY QUESTIONS: KeepRyanHome@gmail.com