Former Helen DeVos patient sends pie to brighten kids’ Thanksgiving

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Sometimes, it’s the little things that turn a bad day it something better, especially for a sick child during Thanksgiving.

West Olive native Olivia Ryzenga knows that all too well.

“The hospital is not a fun place to be, especially in the holiday where the holiday is about thankfulness, food and family,” Ryzenga said. “So to have some sort of comfort. To bring that part of home and family there, it means a lot to people.”

What if a simple piece of dessert could provide that comfort?

“The only thing I wanted when I was sick in the hospital was just a piece of pie,” said Ryzenga.

That was 2017, when lupus, mixed connective tissue disease and rheumatoid arthritis put her in Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital during Thanksgiving that year.

That wish for a piece of pie stuck with her.

So that next year, despite her own health struggles, Ryzenga came up with a plan. 

“We decide to bring a bunch of pies to the DeVos Children’s Hospital,” said Ryzenga.

It’s becoming a tradition. This year, she once again hopped on social media this fall and put out a plea for donations.

They raised nearly $3,000 in just a few week.

On Wednesday, friends and family helped her unload 320 pies for the kids upstairs at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. 

“A kid knows they matter. A kid knows they’re loved. They know that someone is thinking about them. That’s the most important thing to me,” said Ryzenga.

But the mission and the message here go well beyond comfort food on a lonely holiday.

“You have to bring the happiness. You have to bring the joy. You can’t just sit there and wallow in all the sadness,” said Ryzenga. “You can’t just sit there… cause otherwise, nothing’s going to change.”

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