SPORTS FIGURE OF THE MONTH: Ryan Fitch

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

Presidio Sports is proud to announce Ryan Fitch as our Local Sports Figure of the Month for February, 2012. Not only is Ryan an active participant in local athletics, but he and his family have directly been involved in expanding support services for local families with Down Syndrome.

Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure every month for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community. It is our way to recognize those who have made a positive impact on others while striving for excellence. To find past local Sports Figures of the Month, Click Here.

Ryan Fitch raised more money at this year's jog-a-thon than any other classmate at El Camino Elementary School. (Eric Isaacs Photo)

He’s the rare athlete who can do it all …

And normally does.

Hoops. Running. Baseball. Golf.

And that’s just last month!

Our youngest honoree, to date …

“He’s just like every other nine-year-old kid,” says proud mom, Melissa.

Maybe with one special attribute …

Ryan has Down Syndrome.

“He’s differently-abled … wears his emotions on his sleeve … he’s artistic … and also acutely aware of others people’s feelings,” she adds. “If someone is sick or gets hurt, he wants to first make sure they’re OK.“

Sounding more like ‘a Renaissance Man’ — the bottom-line is he’s just a great kid!

And one who is not afraid to take chances and put himself ‘out there’ …

“He came home a couple of weeks ago and told me he had basketball tomorrow,” Mrs. Fitch shared with Presidio Sports. “Well, he’d signed himself up for noon league basketball at school. And his schoolmates have been just great – very inclusive.”

In this fast-moving hoops action, Ryan is eager to please his teammates so he’s more inclined to pass than shoot … despite their on-going encouragement to do so.

This follows his endearing performance not only running many laps at his El Camino Elementary School jog-a-thon but also raising the most money in his class.

“Everything he does comes with ‘heart,” says close family friend Ellen Burns who claims that there’s not more fun in the world than a Wii dancing contest with him.

Dancing with Real Stars??

Ryan enjoys keeping busy and transitions seamlessly — like with the very recent start of 2012 Challenger Baseball. (He moves over this year from Goleta Valley South Little League and T-Ball last season.)

Next day is golf…

Along with other Special Olympians at Goleta’s Twin Lakes Golf Course, they’re taking turns putt-ing … chipping… and driving.

It’s all under the watchful eye of dedicated volunteer coaches – one of whom shared the inside scoop on Ryan’s newest athletic venture:

“He’s definitely an athlete,” says Rich Morrison, a four-year coach with The First Tee of Santa Barbara. “He has nice rotation … a good swing, though a little fast … he’s excited to be here … the sky’s the limit!”

Ryan, at Twin Lakes Golf Course with mom Melissa, is one of five kids in the Fitch family.

“He just loves playing sports and demonstrating his abilities,“ chimes Sara Spataro, executive director of Special Olympics of Santa Barbara.

And when he’s had enough of playing sport or with the many wonderful neighborhood kids who call him friend, he’ll look for his art pad and start sketching.

His mom says that they haven’t done anything different with Ryan — he has responsibilities like cleaning up after himself and helping around the house – except she and husband, Chris ensure there is more stimulation to keep him challenged … to push himself in new directions.

There’s plenty of family love, f’sure. He’s one of five kids – there’s also Shea (24), Jordan (22), Vaughn (19) and younger brother Aidan (7).

Ryan’s enthusiasm for life has inspired his family to be tireless champions of this cause and, together, their impact ripples far and wide across the Santa Barbara community.

Their loving matriarch, Melissa leads the way.

Let’s go to the highlights …

  • Launching the local chapter of the Down Syndrome Association with Retta Slay of Challenger Baseball fame;
  • Starting the ‘Buddy Walk’ (with her own good buddy, Ellen Burns) to raise both funding and awareness — Ryan is the always inspiration;
  • Leading group sessions for new parents of children with Down Syndrome;
  • Providing one-on-one mentoring to new moms of special needs children;
  • Serving on The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) Board of Directors (uses rhythm to educate individuals with intellectual and developmental differences) and helping integrate it into the Goleta educational system;
  • Very actively volunteering at the El Camino Elementary School via the PTA;
  • Working to assist the new mission of Special Olympics of Santa Barbara of proving expanded opportunities for school-age special needs children.

So, thanks to Ryan and the very generous love that comes from his family, the community has new energies and an expanded array of passionate, committed human care resources.

It goes both ways …

For Ryan, according to his mom, it’s the Down Syndrome that adds a certain sweetness of life … an innocence that brings out the best qualities in others in her son’s world.

“If everyone had a little Down Syndrome, the world would be a better place,” she notes.

Our young February honoree is already living proof –- Ryan Fitch is touching many lives in a most positive way, while doing in sport and in life what he does best …

Everything.

Ryan is as artistic as he is athletic. He also knows a thing or two about Super Heroes

Ryan is a family man

Ryan has taken to golf

Basketball too… (Eric Isaacs Photo)

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In the interest of full journalistic disclosure, writer Randy Weiss also serves on the Special Olympics of Santa Barbara Leadership Council.

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