Artesani Park in Boston displayed a bustle of periwinkle race shirts bright and early on November 5, 2022 in an energetic memorial to the unique life of Ryan Shaw. Ryan, who passed away at the age of 18 on May 9, 2016 just days after being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, is dearly missed by family and friends, and his legacy continues to have a great impact on Mustard Seed Communities.
This year marked the Sixth Annual Ryan Shaw Memorial 5K, which benefits three organizations in which Ryan was actively involved throughout his life: Mustard Seed Communities; The Haven Project; and The Ryan Shaw ’15 Entrepreneurial Education Program at his high school alma mater, Saint John's Preparatory School in Danvers. Over $500,000 has been raised for these three organizations through the work of the Ryan Shaw Foundation.
On the clear November morning by the Charles River, members of Ryan’s fraternity made finishing touches to the event, setting up the five kilometer race starting line and organizing race numbers – nearly 800 of them. Their preparation started months before this moment, anticipating the arrival of participants from all over the United States at the park in Brighton. Whether the runners personally knew Ryan or not, all came to honor the memory of this enthusiastic, charismatic, and caring young man.
“It’s more of a celebration than anything,” one race director describes the event.
The Shaw family is instrumental in organizing the event; Scott and Joanne Shaw, parents of Ryan, Connor, and Maddy, are leaders each year in honoring the legacy of their son. Additionally, many race coordinators are brothers of Pi Kappa Alpha, a fraternity to which Ryan belonged during his Freshman year at Northeastern University in Boston.
As a young adult, Ryan traveled the world, expressed his creativity artistically, endeavored into the business world, played various sports, and was a cherished member of his community.
Hailing from Wakefield, Massachusetts, Ryan attended Saint John’s Prep where he was described as “an ideal Prep student.” The school is known for its prioritization of generosity and servitude, and Ryan certainly acted as an example of these throughout his life.
While he was in high school, Ryan developed a passion for the work of Mustard Seed Communities. On a mission trip to Blessed Assurance, one of Mustard Seed’s homes for children and adults with disabilities, he developed close connections with many residents.
In particular, Ryan connected with the residents through art. “Creative” is a word commonly seen in the same sentence as Ryan’s own name, and the residents of Blessed Assurance could attest to that. Ryan’s art was truly something special: an award-winning piece of his even was temporarily displayed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston! Among his artistic talent, athletic skill, and caring nature, Mustard Seed is blessed to have Ryan as part of its story.
As the Shaw family spoke about their son and brother before the race began, the compassionate community gathered because of Ryan’s wonderful life was truly attentive. The group’s care harkened back to the spirit of a few of Ryan’s classmates and brothers from Northeastern University as they conceptualized the first 5K in honor of their friend. The group was “focused on doing something that would be productive in commemorating Ryan and building his legacy;” over six years later, their mission remains alive.
In those six years, Mustard Seed Communities has been able to grow its own mission of caring, sharing, and training among the world’s most vulnerable because of the support of the Ryan Shaw Foundation. With proceeds from one year’s 5K race, MSC was able to purchase a 15-seat van to transport residents to medical appointments, church, and to other outings in the Montego Bay community. This transportation is crucial in connecting residents with opportunities to exercise their independence and reach their fullest potential.
As over 750 runners and walkers crossed the finish line after winding around the Charles River, the legacy of Ryan was palpable. The Mustard Seed USA team finished their 5K walk filled with gratitude. The event certainly serves as an annual reminder of Ryan’s drive to always see the best in people, ability to surprise with new talents, and commitment to serving those around him. Mustard Seed Communities is truly honored to be a part of Ryan’s legacy.