Ryan Roberts, the toddler who inspired a world-wide ice cream party passed away on Sunday, July 8.
Ryan was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart defect. Doctors told his parents, Diane and Erik, that there was nothing else they could do for the 21-month-old's heart after a recent surgery, so they decided to stop supportive care and sign a DNR, HLN TV reported.
When family and friends asked what they could do to help the family through the difficult time, Diane said:
“Just go create a memory with your kids. Just go put a banana split down in front of your kids for dinner and watch their faces light up. No chicken, rice and broccoli tonight, just ice cream. They're going to remember that forever... Watch them smile."
To honor her wish, a friend of Diane's, Melissa Neidhardt, created "Ryan's Banana Split Party" on Facebook. It wasn't long before parents from all of over the world were uploading pictures of their children eating ice cream in honor of Ryan (scroll down to see a selection of photos). To date, close to one million people have been "invited" to the event.
According to TODAY Moms, Diane and Erik thought their son still had a few weeks left to live. Diane made the heartbreaking announcement on her Facebook after Ryan passed. "My HERO fought as in typical Ryan fashion - he ignored our words telling him it was OK to 'go,'" she wrote. Ryan's last night was a peaceful one, Diane told TODAY Moms. "His monitor did not beep the entire night ... He had a fabulous night," she said.
In the weeks prior to Ryan's death, the Roberts family helped him complete a bucket list that they had created. The toddler pet a puppy, played with finger paints, got a speeding ticket in the hallway of the hospital and even drank a (root) beer with dad on his 21st (month) birthday. On the 4th of July, the family watched fireworks from the roof of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (though Ryan fell asleep before they started, Diane told TODAY Moms).
According to TODAY Moms:
"Family and friends will gather Friday for a private celebration of Ryan's life in Pittsburgh. Others who wish to celebrate Ryan can participate by writing memorial messages on balloons -- Ryan's family will use red balloons -- and releasing them into the sky at 8:30 p.m. EST."