Two-sport star, good friend, and loyal family member were just some of the words used to describe Ryan T. Lee. Back in 2011, Lee was tragically struck by a taxi cab in New York City and passed away from his injuries at age 19, but in his memory, friends and family continue to be inspired to make a positive impact in people’s lives.
Over the last nine years, the Ryan T. Lee Memorial Foundation has raised $375,000 for more than 60 college scholarships, collected food and money for those less fortunate, and started leadership initiatives impacting students in towns such as Cheshire, Berlin, New Britain, Meriden, Southington, and more.
“The support of so many people has meant a lot to us,” said Cheshire High School physical education teacher Dan Lee, Ryan’s father. “We have taken a tragedy and made a difference for other people.”
This is an eventful stretch for the non-profit – Foundation Week. First, this past Sunday in Berlin, the Eighth Annual Mini Golf Classic was held at Putter’s Paradise Mini Golf. On July 29-30, the Junior Golf Classic was held at Timberlin Golf Course in Berlin. On July 31, foundation members visited the Boys and Girls Club of New Britain to donate 60 backpacks.
To cap off the week, Timberlin will host the Ninth Annual Golf Classic on Friday, Aug. 2. A dinner will follow at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.
“I think it is an exciting time,” said foundation board member Jim McNair. “It is sad that we need a (memorial) foundation, but it is good to help so many people.”
While Friday’s golf classic at Timberlin is already sold out, tickets are still available for the dinner. There will be a cocktail hour before the event starts at 7 p.m.
The inaugural golf classic led to the foundation being formed in 2011. McNair’s son John and friend Tim Cote played basketball with Ryan Lee in Berlin and came up with the idea for the tournament.
Dan Lee and John McNair annually plan the event with help of volunteers and Timberlin staff. With Ryan having played countless times in Berlin, Timberlin has special significance for the Lee family.
“The staff has been very supportive,” said Lee. “There are a lot of long-term employees who remember Ryan. A lot of his friends also come back for the (golf) tournament and dinner.”
The Lee Foundation is also planning the Fourth Annual Memorial Collegiate Golf Open on Sept. 6-8 at Hop Meadow Country Club in Simsbury. Seventeen teams have signed up this year.
“We’ll have a lot of in-state schools there,” said Lee. “It is always a great event.”
The Lee family has been active in athletics. Ryan played basketball and golf at Berlin High School and golf at Long Island University.
Dan Lee coaches boys’ basketball and boys’ golf at Cheshire High School.
“Golf was a passion for Ryan,” said Lee.
The foundation additionally holds events beyond the sports arena. On Ryan’s birthday (July 20) for the last eight years, a food drive has been held to benefit the Berlin Food Bank. This year at Stop & Shop in Berlin, volunteers collected a trailer full of food and received $2,100 in Stop & Shop food cards.
“There was record-breaking heat that day (last Sunday) and people were very generous donating food and gifts,” said Lee.
McNair would like to expand the initiative into more towns.
“I think that it is a wonderful way to give back and let other generations know how important it is to help other people,” McNair explained.
As a teacher, Lee enjoys working with young people and having them involved in his foundation events. For the last eight years, he has overseen the Excellence in Leadership Conference at Cheshire High. Cheshire students, as well as students from other schools, participate in activities and panel discussions.
“We talk about etiquette, leadership, and community service,” said Lee.
At this year’s conference on May 3, seven college scholarships were handed out.
On April 26 of this year, the foundation held another community event called Ry of Light. People were asked to make pictures or videos to raise awareness and promote random acts of kindness in their community. Images were shared on social media sites such as Twitter.
“Elementary school students in Berlin make posters about how they can make a difference in other people’s lives,” Lee said.
For anyone interested in signing up for a fundraising event or the Foundation Dinner, go to ryantleefoundation.org.