By TAMIYAH YANCEY
RIDGEFIELD — “Ryan’s Day,” the annual cancer-awareness event and benefit Saturday at Veterans Field, will be marked this year with particular joy and hope.
The event will celebrate borough native Ryan Handschin, a 21-year-old recently declared free of his testicular cancer diagnosis after battling the disease for nearly a year.
Stemming from organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer, the event includes a full day of activities, as well as three softball and baseball games including a high school game between Glen Rock and Ridgefield.
Last year, it garnered $2,000 for donation recipient Luke Schwendema, a now 13-year-old from Glen Rock, who beat Neuroblastoma and Leukemia three times before the age of 12. This year, “Ryan’s Day” will honor Handschin for undergoing a 14-hour surgery to eradicate the cancer, which had spread to internal organs and his spine.
“The surgery was thought to be a 50/50 chance of Ryan not leaving the table, but he pulled through and is cancer free now,” said Jon Duncan of Fair Lawn, a coordinator of the event and special education teacher at Ridgefield High School. “To go through the chemotherapy, rehab, surgery and then get back to work — Ryan’s the toughest, most driven, optimistic person I’ve ever met.”
Handschin, a volunteer firefighter who also works in Ridgefield, said that when he was diagnosed last summer, he declared that he would be back to work by this month. He exceeded his own expectations by returning last month.
“I feel like I gave birth,” Handschin said. “I was diagnosed nine months ago, and was told that the surgery took out [infected areas] that weighed the equivalent to a small baby.”
Now, with his health, his career, and most of his hair back, Handschin is looking forward to Saturday’s event and donating a portion of its proceeds to the Testicular Cancer division at Sloan Kettering’s Cancer Center.
“To be so young, and willing to give back. Ryan’s the kind of person everyone can learn something from, particularly the importance of fighting” said Duncan. “And this event represents that hope. People helping people. It’s amazing how many people are contributing. For the past eight seasons we’ve been doing this event, we’ve averaged about $2,000 in donations. The event hasn’t even happened yet, and we’ve already raised $4,000.”
Because of donations from Ridgefield’s firefighters, Jack Daniel’s, the Ridgefield Borough Athletic Organization and event sponsor Genesis Family Chiropractic and Physical Therapy of Cliffside Park, there will be a multitude of activities for all who attend, including a DJ, food and drinks, face painting, raffle prizes, a bounce house and more. Beginning at 9 a.m., the event is open to the public with no cost for admission. Donations, however, are very welcomed.
In addition, there will be a softball game, Cliffside Park vs. Ridgefield, at 4 p.m., and the annual Glen Rock vs. Ridgefield baseball game at 7 p.m., where Handschin will be driven in by a convertible Volkswagen Beetle, past a line of his fellow firefighters, to throw the first pitch.