The Derry and US-based relatives of a special young man who died in America two years ago, have gathered thousands of pounds worth of toys in a Christmas charity drive to help children in need on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ryan Anthony Harkin- whose parents Patrick and Maureen moved from their native Derry to Chicago several decades ago - was a talented hockey player.
Tragically, Ryan, whose relatives hail from the Ardmore, Drumahoe and Pennyburn areas, passed away suddenly on December two years ago aged just 23.
Ryan played with several hockey teams including Chicago Chill and the Chicago Mission and the Chicago Force.
His relatives in Derry this year decided to begin collecting toys for kids who may not necessarily get one at Christmas.
They are donating the toys to Foyle Women’s Aid and Little Acorns.
“Ryan was a loving and generous soul who loved nothing more than making others happy”
Ryan Anthony Harkin was born September 4, 1990 in Chicago. When they moved to the ‘Windy City,’ his parents bought their home half a block down from Western Avenue.
They did not know it at the time, but Western Avenue is the street that ‘Toys for Tots’ motorcyclist drive down to collect and deliver toys for children and families that are less fortunate.
In a statement from the family, they said: “Ryan and his two brothers loved to run down to Western Avenue to watch the big Toys for Tots Parade.
“They would marvel at the thousands of motorcyclists that drove by and would wait for one of them to stop to pick up the toys they donated.
“Ryan was a loving and generous soul who loved nothing more than making others happy. He loved to cook for his friends, tell stories to make people laugh and was a team player who would do anything for his hockey buddies both on and off the ice. He was loyal, and would do anything for his friends and family.
“It is of no surprise that even as a young adult he still loved to run out to Western Avenue to see the Toys for Tots parade and donate a toy or two each year.”
As a result, it only seemed fitting to the Harkin family and their friends to continue to donate to Toys for Tots in Ryan’s memory after he passed away.
With the support and generosity of friends and family, the Harkins were able to raise $12,000 and hundreds and hundreds of toys in the first year after Ryan’s passing.
Donations were sent from all over the United States and even from Ireland.
Now in its second year, the Harkin family and friends again raised over $11,500 along with hundreds of toys.
In addition, donations were also sent to the local toy drive in Derry, Ireland for the first time this year and this too was a success.
The family said: “In Derry we collected toys and money for two local organisations. Firstly, Foyle Woman’s Aid and Little Acorns who some family members have benefitted from over the years.
“People have been so generous in the first year of doing this for Ryan. Last year we had some difficulty in sending presents to Chicago so this seemed the obvious answer to continue the Remembering Ryan legacy.
“We feel honoured and blessed that in Ryan’s name we are able to help out so many less fortunate families throughout the holiday season. Thank you to everyone for your support, and we hope to make this a tradition each year.”
The family have issued a special thank you to the following family businesses who had toy drop off collection points - Monica’s Hairdressers, Hair by Lauren, Esquire Wedding and Formal wear specialists, Adrian Fee Components and to all the staff at E&I Engineering who gave so generously to the toy drive.