Today we’d like to introduce you to Marie Ryan

Originally posted in South Carolina Voyager

Hi Marie, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?

Back before a thousand things happened – before a national pandemic, multiple heart attacks, and life going by too fast, I never thought about what footprint I created throughout my life. I thought I had more time. After facing my own mortality at 43, I realized what I didn’t have was more time. If I was going to live my life intentionally with purpose I had to start now. Making an impact.

It’s not that I was unaware of the needs of others but raising six children and being married left me little time. My name is Marie Ryan and I’m the last person on earth to be chief defender and chief storyteller of an after-school initiative and planner of a multi-thousand-dollar skatepark in Irmo, South Carolina. But it’s just one of the things I’d never thought I’d be doing at this point in my life. After being given the diagnosis of heart failure, everything suddenly became more important. The reality of a shorter life didn’t make me slow down, it motivated me faster and farther than I had ever dreamed. But focusing on getting this park built and the youth in our community has truly helped breathe life into my soul. In reality, it’s not the impact I’ve made in my community. It’s the deep impact this has had on myself and my family. I am humbled and honored that I have been allowed to be involved in a capacity not governed by race, politics, or any other hindrance. Altruism is contagious and infectious especially if witnessed by others.

My purpose to build a community skatepark was not actually the goal. I realize how distracted I’ve been through the years and how often I missed the real benefit of a project. I had my work cut out for me with this project because I knew nothing about skateparks. I didn’t even skate. My lack of experience with skateparks didn’t matter because this project was about love, youth, and community. This was an even bigger reason to lead this project.

I am not a South Carolina native. Irmo is not my hometown. I’m a California girl and grew up in a place where surfing and skateboarding are as natural as breathing. I think that’s maybe why I’m The One pushing for this project. But the idea was born simply out of a desire for convenience: My health often affected my ability to drive my teenagers 45 minutes across town to the closest skatepark. I wanted off the Interstate and out of my car, and I wanted my kids to form bonds and close relationships with the kids in our own community. The more I thought about it, the more I realized, I really want our town to have a positive, central showcase – a place for all youth like mine that don’t necessarily shine in team sports to show off their unique talents and craft in a safe, positive, athletic, family-friendly environment.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?

I often find the projects and missions that are the most vital are the most difficult. Our town is small and does not have access to funding like larger cities. No one in our town has ever started a great community project and initiative. Most people don’t get involved mostly because as a low-income community they don’t have time or do not feel it would be a benefit. However, more people are getting involved after realizing change is possible. Change takes commitment for as long as it takes. The pandemic has also played a part. People don’t realize that outdoor recreation is a safe distanced activity and that youth need recreation to combat the effects of the pandemic.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?

My natural abilities are in sales and marketing. I am tenacious, outgoing, intelligent, hardworking, compassionate, and committed. I do not give up. I see obstacles as an opportunity for personal growth to problem solve using a new method. If you tell me I can’t then I will prove I can. My stubborn tenacity has grown small businesses into huge companies. I have increased revenue by streamlined processes with focused marketing strategies. In order to succeed you must remain teachable.

It is my mission every day to ease the suffering of those around me in the community. I will to provide a meal, a ride, an outfit for an interview, or anything to someone in need. Any hope I can offer those around me.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?

I like my smaller community because there aren’t as many hoops to jump through with making social change. I wish my community had more resources available to people that need them.

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Image Credits

Brannon Miller

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