On January 17, 2016, twenty-year-old Ryder Johnson vanished after a day of work at Eldora ski resort, prompting a search that involved hundreds of people and even more tears, as well as a $100,000 reward offered by his father, Rick Johnson, for information about his whereabouts. The mystery lingered until August 2017, when skeletal remains found near South Boulder Creek east of Gross Reservoir were positively identified as Ryder's.
Along the way, Rick and his wife, Cindy, established Ryder's Fund, a charitable enterprise that honors him and the many people who spent hours looking for him. And now the fund has announced that it will provide financial support to volunteer first responders with the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, which headed up the search effort, and creating a reserve-crisis-fund initiative.
"There's no question that at some point in our community, there will be a mass incident," says Chris Coker, CEO of the Boulder YMCA, which administers Ryder's Fund under the auspices of its endowment committee. "The sheriff's department will be the major agency responding, and they don't have a reserve to take care of officers who may become victims."
The fund previously offered a helping hand to just such a law enforcer — Jeff Pelle, son of longtime Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, who was one of five Douglas County deputies shot during a New Year's Eve incident in Highlands Ranch involving gunman Matthew Riehl, a mentally disturbed man who ambushed the officers following a call to 911.
"Jeff was off-duty for a long time," Coker points out. "When these first responders are injured, their costs go up dramatically in their house. People think workers' comp will take care of that, but it doesn't cover everything. And most police, fire and emergency people have side jobs, because we don't pay them what they really should be getting paid. When they're injured on the job, their workers' comp doesn't take care of the money you were making from plumbing or painting or whatever your side job was. That goes away. So they wrote a check to help Jeff with those extra costs."
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Mental health has been another focus of the fund, which has provided gifts to Attention Homes, a facility that aids youth in crisis, and an unnamed couple who moved to Longmont in the hope of providing an addiction-free environment for their nineteen-year-old son. In addition, the fund gave $5,000 to a young woman suffering from depression and other issues so that she could attend a medical/heath retreat.
Also benefiting was a YMCA program Coker describes as "teens being peer mentors for teens." He adds that "Ryder grew up at the Y. He played hockey here, so there was a natural family connection."
This link extends to the way the YMCA handles the fund, which currently exceeds $250,000. Coker stresses that "nothing goes to overhead — 100 percent of it goes straight to the people the fund is trying to help. It fits so well with what we do at the Y that we're thrilled we can be part of it, and I think that because of what it's doing and the Johnsons' place in the community, it will go on for a very, very long time."
Just as Ryder himself should have been able to do. Click to donate to Ryder's Fund.