Fish like a rebel Saturday
Ryan Joyce loved fishing, he loved superheros, and he loved dressing in costumes.
So after he died of cancer just weeks before his fourth birthday, his parents created two events — a fishing derby and a Halloween trunk-or-treat where youngsters can dress up.
The second annual Kids Fishing Derby to benefit Ryan’s Rebels will be held on Saturday, June 2, from 9 to noon at Twin Brooks Park. Participants should arrive early to register. There is a $5 suggested donation. “But we’re not going to turn anyone away,” Ryan’s father, Michael Joyce, said. “Come and have fun.”
“We wanted to encourage families to just enjoy each other, to get out, to do things together, to be in nature, to have fun doing something outside,” Ryan’s mother, Caroline Joyce, said. “That’s what Ryan liked to do.”
Money raised supports Ryan’s Rebels, the foundation the Joyces established in Ryan’s memory.
“It focuses on two things: health and nutrition for children in treatment, and help for families seeking alternative medical or unconventional medical treatments,” Michael Joyce said.
The idea was born over hospital food while Ryan was undergoing treatment for his cancer.
“We spent a lot of time living at local hospitals, between the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Yale and (Memorial) Sloan (Kettering) in New York City,” Caroline said. Over the course of over a year, we lived for weeks to months on end in these different hospitals and we got so incredibly tired of the not-very-nutritional hospital food. That’s what they’re giving the sick children, that’s what they’re giving the families that are sleeping on the couches 24/7 in these hospital rooms. So we wanted to donate healthy, just much better-quality food, so we do that and cater for all of the families on the oncology floors and, of course, the children themselves.”
A fall event, a trunk-or-treat first held last year on the Saturday before Halloween at Madison Middle School, drew more than a thousand people.
“To tie into our healthy mission, it was all organic candy or non-GMO, no food dyes, just to let the children have fun,” Caroline said. “The candy really didn’t taste any different. If anything, it’s a little better tasting.”
Candy similar to all of the popular choices was available.
“They just leave out all of the bad things that are not so good for children’s health,” Caroline said.
“Let kids be happy and healthy and enjoy all the common children traditions, but try to do it in a healthier way,” she added.
“Part of it is when Ryan had his second surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering over New Year’s of 2014-15, the first day he was out of ICU after spending 10 days, two weeks in there, we went to a regular room and the candy cart came around that night,” Michael recalled. “Still tubes in him, he really couldn’t eat solid food.
“We were sitting there wondering why,” Ryan’s father continued. “This kid just had major abdominal surgery — why is this stuff any good for him or any of the kids here on the floor? We made it our mission once we started our foundation to focus on health.”
“When a child has cancer, or an adult, something went wrong in the body,” Caroline said. “Your immune system should have been able to target it and take care of it. Everyone has cancer cells in their body, these rogue cells, and the immune system should get it. We want to optimize health and optimize immune systems in children.”
Another goal of Ryan’s Rebels is getting families together outside, in part paying homage to Ryan’s love of fishing.
“He loved snapper fishing at the Fairfield pier,” Michael said, recalling Fairfield PAL snapper fishing derbies. “That’s where I think he really fell in love with it, fishing off the rocks, fishing off the pier. Snapper fish, when they run here, they’re fun to catch.”
Those who plan to fish Saturday should take a rod and reel. Fisherman’s World in Norwalk has donated bait, and buckets and tape measures will be available.
Prizes will be awarded to the three longest fish caught by anglers up to 14 years old, divided into age groups. The tournament is catch-and-release; fish are caught, measured and let go.
There are fewer raffles this year, Michael said, but bigger prizes: a week of sailing summer camp for a child at Sound Sailing Center, a four-hour charter for a family of four on the Middlebank II out of Bridgeport, and kayak rental for families at Longshore Sailing School.
“Those were amazing,” Caroline said. “We were so happy to get those donations.”
“Local businesses make donations to offset some of our costs,” Michael said.
“We wanted to encourage people to just enjoy each other, to get out, to do things together, to be in nature, to have fun doing something outside,” Caroline said. “That’s what Ryan liked to do.”