Grief turns into safety measure for thousands of children

Kent County

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Ryan Marsman was living the life every child should live.

“Busy. Always running around, wanting to play with friends,” Ryan’s mother Stacie Marsman said of him. “Full of laughter. When he laughed, you couldn’t help but laugh yourself.”

But Ryan’s life was cut short, just five days before his 7th birthday on a sunny evening in June of 2019.

Ryan and his dad were riding bikes on a path along Cascade Road. They had the right-of-way to cross Laraway Lake in Cascade Township. But a motorist who pulled up to the intersection didn’t see Ryan and hit him.

While devastated by the loss, Andy and Stacie Marsman were able to turn their grief into resolve.

A memorial to Ryan Marsman at the path that now bears his name. (April 8, 2021)

“In Ryan’s case, he was crossing in front of a pick-up that couldn’t see him over the hood,” Andy Marsman said.

They came up with a better way for driver to spot children on bikes: A 6-foot-tall bike flag.

“A small kids down on a small bike is low down. Our flags are 6 feet tall and bright yellow. It just adds that visibility for drivers,” Andy Marsman said.

News 8 previous shared the idea shortly after Ryan’s death.

Since then, Andy Marsman’s second family, Cascade Township firefighters where he is a part-time first responder, also got involved by handing out the flags.

“Ever since that night, they’ve been right beside me, walking me through,” Andy Marsman said of his fellow firefighters.

Surrounding area fire and police agencies have gotten involved. They’ve also handed the flags out at community events.

Since August of 2019, “Riding for Ryan” has handed out over 5,000 bike flags free of charge.

Ryan Marsman Memorial Pathway.

Ryan’s parents both believe the effort has made a difference.

“You never see the story of, this accident almost happened but was prevented by these safety measures because that’s not news. But we just hope in our minds that it’s out there, that it’s happening.” Andy Marsman said. “We all know and recognize the fact that it’s too late to help Ryan. We view this as Ryan helping the other kids.”

Bike flags can be picked up at several fire stations including the Cascade Township Fire Department. Donations toward the effort can be sent on Riding for Ryan’s website.

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