BERLIN — Former coaches and childhood friends met at Timberlin Golf Course Friday to play in memory of Ryan Lee, a local teenager known for playing from dawn until it was too late to see the ball.
“He became who he was because of Timberlin,” said Cody Paladino, who grew up playing golf with Lee. “It’s hard to come here and not think of Ryan.”
After a lunch of some of Lee’s favorite foods, Paladino played the first drive of the afternoon round of golf in the Ryan T. Lee Golf Classic. Dan and Theresa Lee, Ryan’s parents, began the tournament as a fundraiser for a memorial foundation in his name after Ryan passed away following an incident where he was struck by a vehicle in 2011 at the age of 19.
“All kids are special, but Ryan was a really special kid,” said Rosemary Ellefsen. “Whenever he was talking to someone… you felt that he was listening to you.”
“(Ryan) was someone that was charismatic beyond his years,” Paladino said, describing Lee as someone eager to hear other people’s stories and who enjoyed conversations with those of all backgrounds. Paladino said many of those bonds were forged at Timberlin, where Lee could always enjoy himself, “whether it was the actual game of game of golf or getting to meet people playing golf.”
Paladino hopes speaking of Lee’s dedication to others and the work his family does in keeping that legacy alive will inspire others to be as caring for their communities. “Hopefully it gives them a little perspective on their own life,” he said. “There’s lots of people that could use a positive influence.”
With over 200 golfers and 500 attendees at a dinner afterwards, the annual tournament raises enough money to fund most of the charitable events Lee’s family organizes throughout the year through the Ryan T. Lee Memorial Foundation. They recently donated backpacks full of school supplies to the Boys and Girls Club of New Britain and held a food drive at the Berlin Stop and Shop on July 20, Ryan’s birthday, that raised thousands of dollars worth of food and gift cards.
“It’s just amazing what these people do every year,” said Karen Cote, who volunteered to help run the classic. “Just to help out here means the world to us.”
“It’s been eight years and we all tear up just thinking about it,” she said.
“He had a strong impression on everyone that’s here,” said Theresa Lee. “There’s a lot of support, we’re very blessed.”