Ryan and Ashley Week Recap 2022
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
By Emma Herwehe
Forever young. Forever loved. Forever Ryan and Ashley.
These are the words that best embody Ryan White and Ashley Louise Crouse and why we do what we do. Two people whose legacies exist not only printed on IUDM apparel but through the people they touched before and after their lives were taken too soon.
During Ryan and Ashley Week 2022, IUDM members learned of the truly amazing lives Ryan and Ashley led through multiple events on and off-campus. Neither the weather nor our eyes were dry.
On Monday, members got the chance to “Remember Ryan” by watching “The Ryan White Story” in Dunn Meadow. Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS, at 13, after he received a blood transfusion. He quickly gained national attention as he had to fight to go to school and was feared by his community. Despite the hate and brutal judgment he received, he worked endlessly to spread awareness about the AIDS epidemic and worked toward inclusion.
Ryan’s national attention gave him a friendship with Elton John. Elton wrote an open letter 20 years after Ryan’s passing.
“I pledge to not rest until we achieve the compassion for which you so bravely fought,” Elton wrote in the letter.
Ryan passed away on April 8, 1990, the spring before he was set to attend Indiana University. Jill Stewart, one of Ryan’s closest friends from high school, founded IUDM in 1991 to honor Ryan and the impact he left on the world. After many socially-distanced events during Ryan and Ashley Week 2021, committee members were finally able to sit closely on blankets and support one another through the learning of Ryan’s legacy.
Tuesday was “All About Ashley,” and members were able to make a difference in the community, much like Ashley’s positive influence, by volunteering at the Boys and Girls club. Ashley Louise Crouse was a member of the IUDM Executive Council in 2005. On her way home from an IUDM Executive Council meeting on April 11, she was tragically taken in a car accident.
Ashley’s headstone reads “An Angel Among Us,” and those who knew her would say nothing could be more accurate. Ashley was a friend to all and worked constantly to truly make a difference in the lives of others. Her influence still ripples throughout the IU community and beyond. Displaying her initials on IUDM apparel reminds us of her legacy and inspires us to use our gifts to make a difference.
Through community engagement and education about Ryan and Ashley, Wednesday was a day of remembrance and an opportunity to learn more about how we can embody these two wonderful people in everything we do, in and out of IUDM. Committee meetings this day included powerful letters and speeches from friends and families of Ryan and Ashley and emotional group discussion on who these people really were. The IUDM Instagram account posted a picture asking people to comment, tagging someone who truly embodied the spirit of Ryan and Ashley. The post received over 60 comments filled with love and friendship.
Thursday was supposed to be the day of the Ryan and Ashley Week concert put on by IUDM featuring Hank Ruff and other local artists, but it was sadly canceled due to the rainy and cold weather conditions. Instead, committee members participated in a campus-wide scavenger hunt and worked together as teams to find all of the items.
On Friday, the “Angels Among Us” walk took place to remember the lives of Ryan and Ashley and honor all past, present, and future pediatric patients. Casey Crouse, Ashley’s brother and 2009 IUDM president, spoke at the event to provide some personal, emotional inspiration for current IUDM members and those to come. The walk started at the Arboretum, went up Fee Lane, turned right on 17th Street (Ashley’s hill), then down Jordan, back to the starting point. Last year, the walk took place over four days and people walked in groups of five. This year, we were all together again.
Saturday brought some friendly competition in a committee volleyball tournament. Also, there was a chance to continue spreading the love by volunteering and/or participating in a 5K.
Ryan and Ashley spread love during their time here and their legacies have inspired us to do just the same, not only around campus but to everyone we come across in our lives. Their stories show us that even the toughest battles can be a chance to make a difference and show kindness. That’s why we dance. For them, for all children, for all families and doctors. With every passing jelly bean, we live our dash to honor theirs.