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Lead with Love, Lead for Ryan and Ashley

By: Ayaan Abbasi

Printed on each piece of IUDM apparel are the initials RW and ALC. These initials stand for Ryan White and Ashley Louise Crouse, two individuals whose lives were taken too soon but whose impact on the organization cannot be understated.

Annually, a week is dedicated to them filled with different events to honor their legacy. Each event showcases the lives they led and shares that they will always be loved and will never be forgotten.

Monday represented the start of the week with a viewing of “The Ryan White Story” in Dunn Meadow. Members brought blankets and watched the movie with their subcommittee right as the sun set on a beautiful day in Bloomington.

“The Ryan White Story” was first broadcast in 1989, but its message still stands.

Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS as a teenager in Kokomo, Indiana. After his diagnosis, he was expelled from his school and exposed to endless scrutiny by people nationwide. However, despite that, he continued to fight for not only himself but everyone else with his same condition.

Sadly, he passed away at 18, a few months before he was supposed to attend Indiana University. IU Dance Marathon was founded in his honor by his friend, Jill Stewart, a year after his passing.

On Tuesday, committee members had the opportunity to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club to honor how giving these two young people were.

During committee meetings, time was devoted to memorializing the two individuals. Stories were read, interviews were watched, and messages were exchanged, leaving every member inspired.

By hearing words that expressed love and admiration, it became incredibly clear how influential both Ryan and Ashley were. They lived lives that strived to make a difference on the people they met. They lived not for themselves, but for everyone around them. Words cannot encompass these legacies, but hearing from those that were close to them helps us as members to paint a picture.

The Ryan and Ashley week concert returned with bands Subject to Change and Six Foot Blonde performing. This event allowed members to spend time with each other and listen to the music that was being played, providing yet another chance to examine their legacy and impact.

The culmination of Ryan and Ashley week was the Angels Among Us walk. Here, not only are Ryan and Ashley honored, but every pediatric patient yesterday, today, or tomorrow. The walk beginning at the Arboretum resembles the path Ashley took every day.

Ashley Louise Crouse was a member of the IUDM Executive Council in 2005. She died in a car accident on her way home from an Exec Meeting. Her dedication to the organization impacted everyone she came in contact with, her kindness being something that will never be forgotten.

Before she passed, Ashley had made a goal of IUDM raising $500,000 that year, something that may have seemed hard to accomplish. However, her legacy allowed over $600,000 to be raised that year and just a few short years later, the total reached $1 million. The love that she held and gave allowed participation in IUDM to increase exponentially and helped to mold it into the organization that it is today.

Ryan White and Ashley Louise Crouse will continue to be a part of IUDM due to the legacies that they left. Their kindness, drive, and spirit motivate us to make a difference in our community as we remember the love they left during their time here.

When we look at those shirts that read their initials, remember not only their stories but the inspiration that they are. And when we carry their legacies with us, we are Leading With Love, and Leading for Ryan and Ashley.

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