The story of Ryan Goldblatt has really touched me. Ryan passed away from a rare brain tumor just shy of his fourth birthday, and his family has established the Ryan Goldblatt Foundation in his memory to help other families just like theirs. The foundation was established to give back to all the organizations that helped Ryan’s family during his illness, including Dallas Children’s Theater, and DCT is proud to work with them and Children’s Health Center to provide live theater to brave kids and their families.
When you’re a parent, you hear all about how important fun and play is, and how it’s essential if you want your kids to hit all the developmental milestones, and how basically playing is your kid’s job. Joanne and Andy Goldblatt, Ryan’s parents, helped me to understand that when you have a child who is critically ill in the hospital, often you can’t think past the next moment, and the idea of taking your kid out just to have fun doesn’t necessarily cross your mind. But then when time is something that no longer feels like a sure thing, fun suddenly becomes more important.
Andy explains, “It’s one of those things, when we were in the hospital, you don’t think about doing things, you’re all concerned with your kid’s health and the procedures and learning all the jargon, and then when you’re at home, you’re so exhausted you don’t really have any energy to do anything else. Even though there were some times that were not fun, you know, we just made sure we had as much fun as possible.”
Ryan loved pirates, so when DCT was producing HOW I BECAME A PIRATE, a friend of the family told Joanne that Ryan had to see it. Joanne knew Ryan had always loved the book and his response to the experience was so satisfying. “I was a little nervous,” she says, “He didn’t get out a lot, but he came home just bouncing off the walls. He had so much fun, he loved it! He loved the characters that went with the book.”
After Ryan’s unforgettable experience, we just knew. Kids just love to be here, and we thought, you know there are so many kids in the hospital who just aren’t able to come. There’s just so much that goes on in a cancer family’s world, where they’re just thinking about chemo and when’s the next radiation. If this is something we can do to put their mind off of that, just for an hour, for two hours, and really let them enjoy this experience then it’s completely worth it.”
Davinique Roberson and her family recently attended a production of SKIPPYJON JONES with tickets they received through the RGF, and she couldn’t have been more excited. Davinique, like Ryan, has a brain tumor and is at Children’s Health every other week for chemotherapy. Her mother Quatia explains, “I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for my kids to get some kind of culture in their lives, and to get a break from the pressure and the stress we have every other day.
In addition to offering families tickets to come to DCT, the RGF has also decided to underwrite several promotional appearances by Dallas Children’s Theater this year. Joanne Goldblatt recalls, “Dallas Children’s Theater recently brought some actors from SKIPPYJON JONES to meet the kids at Children’s Health and to promote the show’s run to the greater Children’s Health audience. It was an amazing success! The kids loved it! Some of the oncology kids got to come down during filming and watch the actors.” All of the kids in the hospital could tune their TVs to the hospital network and watch the characters in their rooms live as well and it appeared that doctors and other employees equally enjoyed the chance to learn about the DCT treasure that is right in their backyard.”
There are so many things that you just can’t understand until you’ve lived through it, and hearing these families share their experiences, there are so many common struggles. These are not unlike what all parents deal with in that they have to balance the most immediate needs of their kids with what their kids want and will enjoy. But for these families, the entire family, including the siblings, grandparents, and the young patients themselves, the weight of the stress is heavy. DCT, with the help of the Ryan Goldblatt Foundation, is working hard to lighten the load just a little.
Joanne Goldblatt concluded, “We couldn’t be more proud. To see the smiles and hear the laughter from these beautiful kids who are fighting for their lives is truly such a gift. These are the bravest most courageous kids you’ll ever know.”
When he was asked what Ryan would think of the Goldblatt Foundation program, his father Andy was certain. He says, “You know, these parents aren’t going to come to the theater on their own. They need someone to stick tickets in their hand and push them out the door and say “Go!” Do this, have an afternoon of fun.” I think he would be thrilled because I know we had a lot of fun doing it.”
There is nothing that comes close to seeing your kids happy. When you find that thing that makes them smile and forget the things that are troubling them, even momentarily, you can’t put a price on it. Parents have a special appreciation for how quickly time goes by, and hearing Joanne and Andy Goldblatt talk about their son, Ryan, is the greatest reminder to treasure every second. Ryan’s little sister, Emily, never met her big brother, but when she saw his picture in the program for THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT she said, “That’s Ryan!” His memory is precious and is undoubtedly living on through his family, and now through countless other children who owe at least one fun experience to this new friend they’ll never meet.
For more information on the Ryan Goldblatt Foundation, visit https://www.theryangoldblattfoundation.org.