MEDINA — Joseph Cole just wants his best friend to get better. And the 12-year- old decided to do something about it.
The sixth-grader from A.I. Root Middle School started a charity in his friend Ryan Kuchta’s name. Ryan is suffering from lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system.
“We’re just a bunch of hockey players who care,” Joseph said.
Joseph was one of five winners in the Kiwanis Club of Medina’s Macy Hallock Essay Contest. The students read their essays Thursday at Williams on the Lake, and presented checks for $100 from Kiwanis to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit of their choice.
Joseph became emotional while talking about his teammate on the Strongsville Mustangs club team that plays in the Cleveland Suburban Hockey League.
The name of his charity is Team Ryan.
“They stream the hockey games and he watches at home,” said Joseph’s mom, Lori Cole.
During a recent tournament in South Bend, Indiana, the team went to the cathedral at The University of Notre Dame and lit candles for Ryan. The priest at the church also prayed for him.
Lori Cole said her son has raised almost $5,000 for Ryan, whose family has opened a bank account for medical expenses. If there’s any money remaining after Ryan’s treatment, Lori Cole said the family is going to throw a big party.
“It’s been a rough road for Joey,” his mother said. “It’s been hard to process everything. He’s working through it.”
Joseph said Ryan — who was diagnosed Nov. 14 — has named him co-captain of his cancer team.
“We want to help him beat cancer,” he said.
Terry Shuman, of Kiwanis, said he’s been judging essays in all three years of the event.
“This is the best essay I’ve ever read,” he said. “He didn’t follow the rules, but it was personal. His heart is bigger than he is.”
Contestants had to pick a 501(c)(3), but Kiwanis made an exception with Joseph’s essay.
Event chair Barbara Woodward said they received 250 to 300 essays and it was difficult to narrow them down to five winners. All the students were sixth-graders at Root and they also received gift certificates from Regal Cinema. The other four winners and their charities were:
- Olivia Myers, Medina Raptor Center;
- Timothy Gildea, Birthcare of Medina County;
- Alona Arteno, Summer Reinforcement Program;
- Corrine Emerson, Medina Personal Care Pantry.
The essay contest was founded by the late Barbara Smith, the club’s president until her death in 2016.
The contest was named after the 2017 death of Hallock, a longtime Kiwanis member. Hallock’s daughter, Debra, was on hand for the event.
Barbara Woodward took over as chair of the event after Smith’s passing. She said she was highly impressed with the students’ writing skills.