In the midst of the uncertainty, pain, and sadness of 2020, Ryder and our employees received an unexpected gift of hope and love. Granted, you don’t hear words like hope and love associated with a corporation every day ̶ or ever. However, this year, the description is entirely appropriate to capture what became a humbling moment of grace and a lesson for our time, especially during this holiday season.
In February, just before the impact of the pandemic was felt across the nation, a call came in to our corporate headquarters in Miami from a woman, who had a child named Ryder. That in itself was hardly unusual. We receive more than a few calls every year from people looking for miniature Ryder trucks (which we do not typically have) to give to children and grandchildren who share our company’s name.
What was unusual about this call was that the woman, Devi Stephens and her husband Matt, had actually lost their infant son, Ryder, to cancer the year before. In response to a loss that would have crippled many of us, Devi and Matt decided to celebrate what would have been their child’s first birthday by fulfilling a wish list for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maryland, one of many organizations supported with annual financial contributions by the Ryder Charitable Foundation.
The family had already raised more than $25,000 through a private GoFundMe page for the “Roll with Ryder Wish List Drive.” Roll with Ryder is the charity they started to help the Ronald McDonald House. The tagline “Hope and Love,” honors their son Ryder’s life and his legacy. Devi and Matt wanted to partner with us to deliver these items as part of a celebration benefitting the families, who are currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House while their children are being treated for life-threatening illnesses.
Everyone who spoke to Devi and Matt about “Roll with Ryder” was so moved by their story, their hopeful enthusiasm, and their pure joy in planning this event. Unfortunately, safety concerns related to COVID-19 delayed the event more than once. However, over the months in between, many of us at our Miami headquarters, and the whole Ryder team at our truck rental location in Baltimore got to know the Stephens family. To our surprise, Devi and Matt informed us that for them the Ryder name and tagline “Ever Better” had come to symbolize hope and love. Word of the “Roll with Ryder” family spread among employees and the public on social media.
Finally on September 18, on a windy day and minus the large celebration they had originally hoped for, Devi, Matt, and their 3-year-old daughter Avery, all wearing masks, delivered a truck load of crucial supplies from Target to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maryland with the help of a few of our employees. The Stephens family is planning more deliveries next year and the years to come. This month they’re providing gift cards to the families at the Ronald McDonald House. Members of our marketing department were so moved by the story that they pitched in and designed the card holders.
Devi and Matt turned what could have been a devastating loss into an opportunity to help someone else. It was a moment of celebration in the midst of the pandemic for all the Ryder employees who had followed the family’s efforts to make that day happen.
Experts tell us that corporate giving ̶ both volunteer and financial contributions ̶ has enormous benefits in creating and maintaining a culture of caring that spills over into how we operate, from how we treat each other to attracting top talent. This year we received something we needed just as much: a little hope and love.