Ryan Roberts, not even 2-years old, has managed to start a social media frenzy with his story of struggle. When Ryan’s mother, Diane Roberts, found out her 21-month-old only had a few weeks left to live, people kept asking what they could do to help. Her response?
“What you can do is not take tomorrow for granted. Just go have a banana split with your kids. Put a smile on their face and create a memory. They’ll remember that forever,” Roberts told ABC News.
When family friend Melissa Neidhardt heard Roberts’ desires, she took to her Facebook to create “Ryan’s Banana Split Party.” Originally only inviting her 200 friends to the event, it was an online plea for everyone to help fulfill Roberts’ wish: To create a happy memory by having a banana split for dinner, uploading a picture of it to the Facebook event, and think of Ryan while you enjoy that moment with your children.
The page has now grown to 50,000 attendees, with families all over the world uploading their “banana split party” pictures.
Ryan’s grandmother, Jane, is amazed by the support they’ve received. “The support and knowledge the people will have now because of our little sweetheart is just amazing,” she said.
Ryan was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart defect. Doctors who are caring for Ryan at the cardiac intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh told Diane and her husband, Erik, of South Fork, Pa., during a recent surgery there was nothing else they could do for their son’s heart.
“There’s nothing anybody can do. He’d need a heart and double lung transplant. He’s not eligible because of the Down syndrome. That’s taking three organs. We knew from the beginning he would never get that,” Roberts explained.
This is when Roberts, 39, and her husband made the difficult decision to stop his supportive care and declared him a DNR – Do Not Resuscitate.
Frustrated and upset, Roberts voiced her feelings on her Facebook page. Much like the Canahuati family did for their baby daughter, Avery, The Roberts family created a bucket list to help everyone in Ryan’s life cope with the given situation. So far he has ridden a bike, pet a puppy, and shared a root beer with his dad on his 21st (month) birthday.
And today, he can check off the latest item. Ryan had a surprise visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers mascot Steely McBeam. Roberts told us, “He loved touching his face.”
She had one rule if the mascot was going to visit Ryan.
“My rule was if anybody wants to visit the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit), they have to go through and visit all the patients. A lot of them don’t get that opportunity. You have to share those smiles,” she laughed.
It’s easy to share your support with Ryan’s family. Click here for “Ryan’s Banana Split Party” on Facebook to upload your own photos and words of encouragement.