Today is my birthday.

When I was a kid, my birthday was always a big deal, as it is for just about every kid whoever lived. You tell your teacher when your birthday is three months in advance, you tell the class, you tell strangers on the street, you can’t wait for the big day.

As you get older, birthdays are not such a big deal, as often they remind you too much of time wasted and loved ones gone. There were only two birthday cakes I ever craved: the one from Ramosers Bakery in South Orange, N.J., and the one awash in buttercream frosting from a hole-in-the-wall pastry shop in Jamesville, N.Y. Ramosers closed back when I was in college; and although Jamesville’s Pastry Palace is still around, it’s 315 miles away and takes 4½ hours to get there.

So I’m content to get a few cards from friends, a bunch of phone calls and emails reminding me I’m rapidly aging, and spend the day with my husband doing something fun. But this year is different. I want lots of presents ... presents from you, but not addressed to me.

There’s a wonderful little boy living in Bradford whose name is Ryder. Ryder is only 4 years old, but carries the weight of decades on his tiny shoulders, for Ryder was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spinal cord fails to develop or close properly while still in the womb. Ryder also was born with hydrocephalus, quite common as an accompaniment to spina bifida. To put it simply, this is water on the brain, causing Ryder to make frequent trips to Hasbro Hospital to have it drained. Not a great life for a little boy.

Despite all of this, Ryder doesn’t really know he has any disability. He laughs, he goes to school, he has a wonderful attitude, and like most little boys his age, he is starting to grow. He’s getting taller, putting on weight, and developing naturally. While all this is positive, it also puts a strain on the wheelchair ramp that powers him in and out of his parents’ van. In short, he needs a new ramp that can grow with him, and that ramp costs in excess of $13,000. His parents have worked tirelessly to contact organizations, looking for available grants, etc., and have come up empty-handed.

So we get back to today and my birthday and those presents I’m wanting. That’s where you and everyone in your sphere of influence and friendship come in. The Rotary Club of Westerly, in cooperation with WBLQ Radio, your hometown radio station, have put together an initiative to hopefully raise the money to Keep Ryder Riding.

This coming Wednesday, Oct. 21, WBLQ will host a live Radiothon for Ryder from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. The popular Morning Show with Crazy Chris, Frank Prosnitz, Ken Collins, Wolfman Zack, Loren, and the gang will take place right in downtown Westerly by the post office. They’re hoping you’ll not only honk your horn as you pass by, but pull over for a minute (don’t worry, you won’t get a ticket; the police know Ryder and they’re behind this effort), and throw a couple of bucks or a check in the bucket (checks should be made payable to Keep Ryder Riding, an account held at Washington Trust). At noon it’s “Lunch with Johnny Boots;” then later in the day, “Mann About Town,” the live afternoon show, will also take place from the post office 3 to 5 p.m., so you’ll have yet another chance to help Ryder Keep Riding.

If you’re unable to join in person, you can mail your check (no cash, please) to WBLQ, P.O. Box 2175, Westerly, RI 02891, or donate on WBLQ’s Facebook page at wblq1230AM. We’re also thanking local businesses for the special promotions they’re creating and the donations they’re making.

The thing about birthdays is there are balloons and cake and parties, and it’s all over in a matter of hours. The thing about Ryder is he’s going to have a lot more birthdays, he’s going to continue going to school, he will have to keep going to Hasbro every few weeks, but YOU can make the trip and his whole life a whole lot easier, and that will last for much more than a matter of hours. Yes, it’s my birthday, but it’s Ryder’s party, and you’re invited.

Please come.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 19 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at or 401-539-7762.

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