Kimberly Smith admired her brother-in-law, Ryan Smith, not only for his kindness and thoughtfulness ― he always put others first ― but also for how he fought his diagnosis of stage IV adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), a rare cancer that arises within the secretory glands.
Ryan was 26 when he was diagnosed, newly married to Kimberly's sister Ashley and an MBA student at Louisiana State University. He remained positive, and his spirit was an inspiration to all who knew him.
Kimberly was studying for the bar exam, putting in long hours.
"Going through law school and taking the bar were so difficult for me, but Ryan always pushed me to succeed, even while going through his own treatment," says Kimberly, who now works in Houston as a Harris County assistant district attorney.
Kimberly and her husband, Landon, were among many who rallied around Ryan and Ashley during his treatment at MD Anderson. He died in June 2014, just three months shy of the birth of his son, Turner.
The family soon established the Ryan W. Smith Endowed Fund for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Research to fund research and help improve the lives of MD Anderson patients fighting the disease.
To raise money for the fund, Landon suggested creating a sporting clays event because of Ryan's longtime enjoyment of the sport. Thus, the annual Shooting Sporting Clays fundraiser, held each April in Port Allen, Louisiana, was born in 2015. It's raised more than $33,000 to date. The family-oriented event has become a labor of love for all involved in its planning and executive. Kimberly says it's held in memory of Ryan not only to continue his fight, but also to create a legacy for his son.
Throughout the year, she expresses her gratitude for the care Ryan received by serving as a weekly coffee cart volunteer at MD Anderson.
I miss Ryan so much, and volunteering at MD Anderson provides me a huge connection to him.