Ryan Chedester was 13 years old when he died this past February '96. Ryan attended every year of Camp Heartland and our Camp Pacific Heartland session in Malibu last year. Ryan was also an important member of Camp Heartland's Journey of Hope speaking tour - committed to raising public awareness about HIV/AIDS all his life. Ryan will be "really missed by everyone whose lives he touched. The following is an excerpt from the eulogy delivered by Neil Willenson:

"On earth, Ryan was our friend, our neighbor, our cousin, our nephew, our grandson, our godson, our son, our teacher, our hero, our inspiration. In heaven, Ryan will be our guide and our guardian angel.

Many of us have lost loved ones before, and at times the grief can seem unbearable. The loss of Ryan hurts more because of the lost years, the lost potential, the lost dreams, the lost aspirations. AIDS has stolen Ryan, but we must not let it steal our memories of our time with this beautiful child.

Ryan saved lives. Two years ago a brave little boy told his school, his neighbors and his friends that he had AIDS. In his own words, he said he was 'tired of living a lie, I want this monkey off my back...' By speaking out in Louisiana and throughout this nation, Ryan has brought the discussion of HIV into all of our lives. We talk about AIDS because of Ryan. We teach our children about AIDS because of Ryan. We save our own lives because of Ryan. He was a teacher, an educator, a quiet spokesman for compassion and common sense...

In some way, Ryan's light touched us all. Ryan's light shone brightly for 13 years. During that time, Ryan's light touched us with its warmth, with its strength, with his ray of hope. Even as the light dimmed in the last few months, the power was still strong. There was still hope amazing courage and much, much love. Now Ryan has gone toward a brighter light. He has followed the light to a place with no medicines, no pain, no needles, no fighting, no AIDS."

 

RYAN'S POEM

I believe in angels
Don't you see
They are all around us
Watching after you and
Taking care of me

They are helping you travel
Very, very far
The twinkle of your eyes
Will be seen in the stars

Look at the moon
There is your smile
Kids all over the world
Will see it
For miles and miles

I believe in angels,
Don't you see
They are god's helpers
Taking the pain away
From you and me

I love you Ryan

- Stephanie, age 10