Skid marks from Ryan Cotter's wheelchair line the hallway floor inside Ryan House in Phoenix. "someone taught him how to do burnouts with his wheelchair," Tracy Leonard-Warner said as she reminisced about the 17-year-old who inspired his parents to start the non-profit nearly nine years ago.
Ryan passed away from sudden complications related to Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a disease doctors said would take his life by his 2nd birthday.
"I've heard Holly say everybody is born and everybody dies and it's that living that's in between is what this house is all about," Leonard-Warner said.
Ryan House is one of only two respite care facilities in America specializing in offering free care for families with a terminally-ill child.
It's a different philosophy than the more widely known "Ronald McDonald House," which gives families a place to come for care as well. Ryan House allows the family to get away for 28 days a year while professionals continue care.
“Ryan died comfortably, peacefully, and relatively quickly... He was surrounded by family and the team at Ryan House, who has been like extended family over the past 8½ years,” Holly Cotter said in a statement.
Just last week, Ryan uploaded a video to YouTube revealing his plans for college.
"I'm planning on living on campus at ASU next year, yes without my parents, yes I know I'm disabled," Ryan said in the video.
He'll never get the chance to realize that dream, but in memory, his service will be held on the Tempe Campus at Arizona State University on Wednesday, December 19th inside Need Hall, 920 S. Forest Mall, Tempe.
The family asked that in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Ryan House or any other Phoenix area charity of your choice.