Gone but not forgotten at Alburnett graduation

The Aiming For A Cure Foundation is built upon a foundation of committed people with a great passion to help children and their families that suffer from various forms of cancer.

Gone but not forgotten at Alburnett graduation

This article, by Orlan Love, originally appeared in the May 15, 2011 issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Alburnett Graduation
Alburnett High School Graduating Senior Jordan Neighbor with Ben's Parents, Steve and Jodie Ries

ALBURNETT – The 44 members of the Alburnett High School class of 2011 honored a boy who’d have been the 45th if childhood cancer had not ended his life in sixth grade.

Ben Ries, who faced cancer with cheerful optimism and a will to help other sick children, taught his classmates how to live, said Jordan Neighbor at Sunday’s graduation ceremony at the high school.

Neighbor described his friend as “a strong, selfless individual who lived day by day, not knowing what was in store for him, but always trying to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Ben’s legacy will live on in the memory of his classmates, said Neighbor, one of five graduating seniors who presented a check for $35,240.98 to Aiming for a Cure, the charitable foundation Ben helped his family establish before his death in June 2005.

The senior class raised the funds through Coins for a Cure, a yearlong campaign that included a school danceathon.

The seniors also commissioned a painting, which they presented to Ben’s parents, Steve and Jodie Ries, at Sunday’s graduation ceremony.

The painting – “Hunting Buddies” by well-known wildlife artist Greg Bordignon of rural Alburnett – depicts Ben and two of his classmates, Neighbor and Clint Francois, engaged in one of their favorite activities, hunting pheasants with one of Ben’s beloved German shorthaired pointers.

Alburnett High School Graduating Senior Codi Stick gets emotional durning a presentation for classmate Ben Reis during Alburnett’s Graduation ceremony Sunday May 15, 2011. Reis, who passed away from cancer in 2005, would have been graduating with the class of 2011. In his honor, students raised more then $30,000 for the Aiming for a Cure Foundation and surprised his family with a painting by wildlife artist Greg Bordignon. (Becky Malewitz/SourceMedia Group News)

Bordignon said he met a year ago with about 10 of Ben’s classmates to get their ideas for the painting, which was a surprise for Ben’s parents.

Ben’s love of dogs and hunting was the inspiration for Aiming for a Cure, which integrates those passions into an annual fund-raiser that in eight years has raised well more than $1 million to support cancer patients and their families at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

Steve Ries thanked the class of 2011 for what he said was the largest single contribution ever received by Aiming for a Cure and encouraged the members to “keep your priorities as they were taught to you.”

Jodie Ries said her son was proud to be a member of the class and said he is “smiling down on you today for the help your gift will bring to patients at Children’s Hospital.”

“We knew when you started kindergarten you were an incredible class,” she said.

Deb Berg, coordinator of the Coins For a Cure fundraiser, said Ben believed in miracles and that his classmates and many others believed in Ben.

“You will see miracles looking back at you when you visit with Children’s Hospital patients,” she said.

Alburnett High School Graduating Seniors
Alburnett High School Graduating Senior Codi Stick gets emotional during a presentation for classmate Ben Ries

More Articles

Our Sponsors

We cannot begin to express our full appreciation to our wonderful sponsors and the contributions they make in both time and money. Please share in our appreciation of these wonderful companies, organizations and individuals and honor them with your thanks and your business.