CASCADE CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Current and former professional hockey players returned to the ice Saturday night in Cascade Township to support local organizations.

It was the second year for the charity hockey game at Patterson Ice Center. Organizers said they raised more money than last year.

The game meant a lot to families in West Michigan, but it meant the world to a Cascade Township family who’s hoping to create tangible change in honor of their late son.

It’s been more than three years since everything changed for Andy and Stacie Marsman.

Andy Marsman and his 6-year-old son, Ryan, were riding their bikes in Cascade Township before Ryan was hit and killed by a truck.

“There was a truck that was turning right on red and didn’t see them crossing through the crosswalk,” Stacie Marsman said.

Ryan was just days away from celebrating his seventh birthday.

Photos of Ryan Marsman, courtesy of Andy Marsman (July 30, 2022)

In Ryan’s memory, his parents started the nonprofit “Riding for Ryan” to try to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

The idea is giving six-foot yellow flags to children riding their bikes, alerting drivers there are kids around the road.

“We found that, in Ryan’s case, he was in front of a pickup truck that didn’t see him,” Andy Marsman said. “And kids are small. They’re short. They’re at a disadvantage so we wanted something that would stick up and make them taller like an adult.”

Thanks to donations alone, they’ve given out more than 10,000 flags since 2019.

“It just blows us away,” Andy Marsman said. “We thought, ‘hey, let’s like buy 100 flags and see what happens.’ And it took off.”

Andy and Stacie said that the charity game and the family-friendly activities outside beforehand “would’ve been a highlight of Ryan’s year.”

“To us, it’s an amazing way to remember him,” they said.

The game also supports the Cascade Firefighters Association and Brody’s Be Café, a coffee shop in Ada that employs people with special needs.

Defenseman Easton Oliver, who’s played in the East Coast Hockey League, lives in New York but flew into Grand Rapids just for this event.

“You know, playing professional, playing college — the sport’s fun, you do it ’cause you love it, but it’s not really an endgame,” Oliver said. “Not all of us are going to the NHL. So you might as well use that as an avenue to better the community and people around you. Riding for Ryan is a perfect example.”

The event raised $14,000 last year, and organizers said they’ve already surpassed that this time around.

“I had no idea, nobody really did, that it was gonna blow up like this,” said Luke McCarthy, the event’s organizer and a Cascade Township firefighter.

“It means the world to us,” Stacie Marsman said.