Tonawanda News — Ryan Bertini loved music, his favorite song was "Happy Birthday," and when students in Meadow Elementary School's band took the stage at the Alumni Student Activity Center Thursday evening, instead of cheering "let's go band" they cheered "let's go Ryan."
The Remember Ryan Foundation was started by members of the little boy's family after he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from health problems he'd had all his life. He was in the third grade at Ohio Elementary School. The first Remember Ryan Recital took place during the 2008-2009 school year and has come a long way since then.
"Music made him happy," said Bertini's grandfather, John George, former superintendent of North Tonawanda schools. "It calmed him down. Ryan went through numerous surgeries over the years, his cassette player was never very far away from him, he just loved music of all kinds."
Bertini's love of music gave his family the idea to use his memory as a way to keep the arts alive in schools. Each year the foundation offers grant funding up to $1,000 to any area music teacher who applies.
This year, the grant will be used to purchase new musical instruments for the school. According to April Carere, Meadow Elementary's band director, the new instruments will have little tags on them so that everyone knows the instruments are there because of Bertini.
The band students separated into groups and picked songs they'd like to perform at the Remember Ryan Recital 2014. A variety of tunes will be performed, including Bertini's favorite, "Happy Birthday."
"We have some small little excerpts from the book, like 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,'" said Carere. "Some students will perform the national anthem, 'America the Beautiful,' some pop tunes, and even 'Let it Go' and 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman' from the movie 'Frozen.'"