Ten years have passed since Chip McElroy’s four-year-old son, Ryan, succumbed to cancer. But the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant vividly remembers the tribulations that accompany caring for a child with the illness. Pledging to stand at his son’s side during every moment of his battle, McElroy quit the law enforcement job he held at the time, sleeping in parking lots and church pews when Ryan stayed overnight in hospitals far from home. “When you have a sick child,” he says, “it’s emotionally devastating. But financially, it’s exhausting.”
In an effort to support other caregiving families struggling with financial issues, McElroy founded the Ryan McElroy Children’s Cancer Foundation in 1999. On Saturday, March 21, the organization hosts its sixth annual Gala of Hope fund-raiser. Money generated from the event helps Valley families with the myriad expenses that pile up when a child undergoes cancer treatment. “We do everything,” McElroy says. “We pay for chemo medication, alternative treatments, hotel stays, rental cars.” Ryan’s Foundation even covers costs not related to treatment, such as funeral charges or rent. “Whatever a family needs,” McElroy stresses.
This month’s fete takes place at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel and features a cocktail hour, formal dinner, and live and silent auctions. The foundation relies on the gala for a significant portion of its funds; last year, it raised more than $170,000 through the event. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to children with cancer, as the foundation board members — many of whom are McElroy’s friends and coworkers — perform their roles on a pro bono basis. “They’re helping me keep my son alive,” McElroy says of the foundation and its benefactors. “Through their efforts, we’re able to do that and, most importantly, help some of these families.”
Tickets for the Gala of Hope are $150 per person. Call 845-855-0211 or visit www.ryansfoundation.org for more information on the gala and other ways to help the foundation.