Project Purpose founder, Nicole Ryan, is on a POWERFUL mission with a PROFOUND vision...to help Ohio children!
Instead of dwelling on the epidemic and impact of poverty (financially and spiritually) affecting Ohio's youth, Nicole and her God loving Team decided to do something about it
EDITOR'S NOTE: I had the privilege of meeting and later interviewing Nicole Ryan from Project Purpose for today's BUFF Blog. I encourage everyone to read her impassioned and powerful story below - and consider following her example
FYF WitnessWear: What was the DEFINING moment for you that switched your mind and heart from "wanting" to start Project Purpose, and actually taking that first leap of faith and making it a reality?
Nicole Ryan: Project Purpose didn’t even start out as “Project Purpose”, it actually began as an idea I had one night just before falling asleep. The idea had been a culmination of happenings that essentially were strung together so eloquently that it was clear it didn’t just occur by happenstance. During my internship in college, I worked on the pediatric Hematology and Oncology floor at Akron Children’s Hospital. However, days before I was to start my internship I fell at the gym while doing a box jump and completely split my fibula bone in half. So that was a bummer... well I thought it would have been. However, I soon realized it was an incredible blessing. My white cast with blue puppy dog paws that went up half of my leg was the perfect ice breaking piece to any conversation I had with my patients. I had a “boo-boo” just like them. My imperfect current health was something they could immediately relate to me about, and they didn’t just view me as another person in a white coat but just as someone like them, who was there to help them.
However, I found it so difficult to generate nutrition/physical activity interventions for this population in particular because of their immunocompromised state. They have very poor immune function, and what would be just a common cold to a healthy person could evolve into the demise of someone in this population. So, gym class, the playground, the recreational center, public places, ect were oftentime not an option depending on their immune strength. AND THEN the families were so financially drained and compromised that at home adaptive equipment and or even a bike was out of the question. They had to worry about affording treatment over affording a bike.
I was at Akron Children’s Hospital for 5 weeks during my winter semester and then was able to return at the end of my spring semester for 3 weeks to complete what is called “Staff Relief”. This is a portion of the internship where you have little oversight and are expected to function competently as a Registered Dietitian… yikes, no pressure.. right? Even though I was a bit nervous, I was so very eager to jump back into caring for these kiddos. One patient in particular, who was an absolute joy, was a huge defining factor on the formulation of Project Purpose. He was one of patients during my previous 5 weeks, and although I wish his treatment had ended there, I also cared for him during my second rotation at the hospital. His vibrant personality could light up any room, and when we saw each other for the second time it was such an exciting moment! He had so many updates to share with me, and one in particular was the bike he got for Christmas. He was describing how cool the bike was, the color, the moment he was able to ride it for the first time with so much incredible joy. In that exact moment, I had this overwhelming thought come to mind that I was like “Wow, how amazing would it be if every child on this floor, or even in this hospital was able to experience this exact joy?” Even though I had this thought, it pretty much just stopped there and I went on my merry way.
The other side to this story was that my broken ankle was a huge bummer to my active life. I am a runner and I found out quickly running is not quite an option when your bones are broken. However- indoor cycling is because it has much less impact on the body. I had taken a spin class once or twice in the past but I never thought I would enjoy something like that as my outlet. Running is my therapy- there isn’t anything like putting in your headphones and having reality stop for a while as you devour a running trail. I again, was proven wrong. I started using indoor cycling/spin as my cardio endurance outlet and was blessed enough to secure a position at my gym as an instructor.
So as you can gather there are multiple different events taking place in this story but the one constant was the Holy Spirit. His timing couldn’t have been more spot on- which led to one culminating moment. One night, as I was just about to fall asleep, I heard God say to me clear as day “You should do a spin class fundraising event to raise money to purchase bikes for the kiddos.” Ok… WHAT?! God, are you sure??? Then I began to have a cascade of negative and fearful thoughts- one in particular was that it was a waste of time and who was I to do something like this?? Plus this came to me only a few weeks before graduation from undergrad so it’s like ok well I am going to be studying for my boards and starting a brand new job/life soon and have no time for this! But this message would not leave my heart!
It played like a broken record in my head until I told my best friend- Amanda Puleo. She is a creative genius and graphic designer that can take any idea and make it into a reality. I can’t remember the exact time that I did but after I explained the idea she immediately told her boyfriend, Jake Thompson, also another graphic designer. Their partnership was crucial for the creation of our branding, marketing, design and website start-up. From there, I knew that I was not the greatest when it came to accounting or organization of administrative documents so I told by friend Madeline Brown, also a Registered Dietitian and one of the most organized people I have ever met, about the idea and the need for a Treasurer and she was more than ecstatic to join.
We had multiple initial planning meetings with ourselves as well as key stakeholders over the entire month of June leading up to our first event, Project One, that took place on July 30th 2016. This event along with collected outside donations upwards of $3,500.
By faith, a simple idea whispered to my heart one night has now been transformed into an organization that has helped deliver 40+ bikes and helmets to kiddos with life treating illnesses. It is by the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit that has the Project Purpose team to where we are today.
FYF: What has been the most rewarding single experience and unforgettable memory that's come from your work thus far with Project Purpose?
NR: Oh.. this is a tough one! There have been countless moments along this journey that you truly couldn’t even put a price on. However, I will say one of the most precious memories that stick outs was when we received an immensely and unexpected donation from another organization called Jeremy Cares just one month after starting this journey and hosting our first fundraising event. Jeremy Cares is an incredible organization with a goal to create moments of joy for families going through a medical crisis with a child being treated in Northeast Ohio. It was by their amazing act of generosity and kindness that ultimately led to an additional 10 kids receiving bikes and helmets. I felt like God’s message through that entire experience was “do what you can do, and I’ll take care of all you can’t”.
FYF: Just like in our Christian lives, we need other Believers to encourage, challenge, and uplift us toward a more meaningful relationship with our Saviour. Who has been influential and invaluable as contributors in growing your startup?
NR: We cannot do life alone. We are not created to do life alone, and life endeavours are no different. Project Purpose wouldn’t be ANYTHING without the incredible and uplifting support of our team members and supporters. Amanda Puleo, Jake Thompson, and Madeline Brown were the catalysts in taking Project Purpose from a mere idea to a beautiful reality. New to town is Ellen McNamara, who has played an integral part in stepping in for essentially every administrative role our company requires. God has created us all individually in His image with unique passions, abilities, and interests. I believe Project Purpose has provided its team of individuals to exercise our God given talents for the Glory of Him! At the core, Project Purpose simply provides tools to patients that wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. That is what WE do, and God does the rest.
As for our supporters, our families and more specifically my mom, Lisa Ryan, and Amanda’s mom, Tina Puelo, have been so generous with their time and treasurers for this organization. The amazing friends, family, and people who have come to our events and donated their time, talents, and treasures have all had a resounding impact on the successes of our events. The gym, hospital, equipment vendors, and other organizations we have been blessed to partner with have been nothing short of a dream to work with. I think that throughout this entire journey, everyone who has been willing to partner with us in any way has created a stock for themselves in the overall success of Project Purpose.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention someone in particular, though. Throughout my entire life, my mom has been there as my biggest cheerleader and constant shoulder to lean on. She has emulated what it means to carry yourself with Grace, while also maintaining incredible professionalism. She is the most kind, gentle, and hardworking selfless soul I know. I’ll never be able to fully explain the impact she has made on my life, however it is my prayer to do my best to emulate that positive impact in those around me.
FYF: Tell us a little about your most recent successful project, and what it meant to you, the team, and the children whose lives you impacted? Also, what's next up for Project Purpose and where can our readers follow you online or perhaps meet up with you?
NR: Project Purpose is a year round organization, however we do coordinate a culminating annual “bike drop” with surrounding hospitals, with the last two bike drop events consisting of a partnership with Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, OH. The bike drop processes begins initially after an eligible patient is identified. The identified patient is given a catalog we create of bikes and helmets, which then they are able to pick out their very own bike and helmet of their choice! We then choose a date and coordinate with the hospital to be able to drop off all of the bikes and helmets at one location at the hospital so all of the patients can receive everything on the same day.
Our most recent bike drop event took place on December 16, 2017, at which 14 patients received bikes and helmets. We worked alongside the Physical Therapy (PT) department to determine patients eligible to receive our provisions. The most profound aspect of the bike drop this year was that by working with the PT department directly, the therapists were able to create therapy plans geared towards the kiddos learning how to ride the bikes as well as how to incorporate therapy by riding and using their bikes at home so less time can be spent actually in the hospital. For some of these children, this was the first bike they have ever received. For some of these children, this is the only bike they will most likely ever receive in their lifetime. Needless to say, the smiles on the kiddo’s faces are remembered for days to come!
It usually takes a day for the impact of the bike drops to sink in for me. During, it is a joyous time and so much fun! But after, I am soberly reminded of the magnitude of the day. We see innocent children with debilitating diseases receive a piece of tangible hope. Our goal is to not only provide kiddos with bikes and helmets, but to be a shining light of God’s love. Our goal is to radiate God’s love so much that it is undeniable source of these provisions. We will remain in the dwelling of his love and continue to press into all he has in store for us, Project Purpose, and the incredible people & patients we are so blessed to work with!
As a team, we have discussed one of our next steps in our mission is to develop a bolstered Project Purpose apparel and merchandise line for another avenue to generate donations. And incredibly, we met you guys (Aaron & Sarah) so we are SO EXCITED to see what could potentially be in store down the road. Further, we are hopeful to begin our next phase of fundraising wellness events, speaking engagements, and bike drops! We would love you (the reader) to follow us on Instagram at: @projectpurposeorg or on our website at www.project-purpose.net!
FYF: What stands out at a moment or ongoing lesson that you've learned as a result of your work with Project Purpose and serving to improve the lives of so many children?
NR: To anyone who has a dream of making this world a better place, I would encourage you to do so. I would encourage you to move mountains, spread seas, and make miracles happen. We often forget, myself included, that the divine power and light of Holy Spirit dwells in us IN EVERYTHING WE DO. However the minute we tap into that power, the minute we take our mind to “what if” to “how to” is when positive change is generated. That is when mountains are moved, seas are spread and miracles happen. Courage is merely acting in the presence of fear. If you’re asking, how do you find that courage? Well, I would say that is a great opportunity to flex our faith and thank God for the high price he paid for us. Surrender all of your hesitations, doubts, and negative thoughts to Jesus. His breathe is in our lungs and the moment that realization hits and our body is consumed with life of the Holy Spirit, there is no telling the incredible power that will come from it. So what do you say, challenge accepted?
FYF: Lastly, for our readers who want to follow your example, which is ultimately the example set and left for us by Jesus (to be fisher's of men and to love one another more than ourselves)...How can someone TAKE ACTION and get involved in your worthy and wonderful cause?
Donate to Project Purpose: http://www.project-purpose.net/donate/
Sign up to attend our fundraising events! You will be notified via our social media or via email. You can sign up to participate in events here:
Contact Project Purpose directly!
Follow Project Purpose!
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