February 21, 2014

Citizen of the Week: Ryleigh Ledford

The Daily Citizen

— As someone with autoimmune disorders, Ryleigh Ledford knows what it’s like to suffer from a chronic medical condition.

So when the recently-turned teen celebrated her 13th birthday in January, her focus was on helping another local family. The Gilley family has struggled to help their 7-year-old daughter cope with health conditions that cause her to have up to 50 seizures a day despite taking medication.

Ryleigh’s mother, Stephanie, said this is the first time her daughter has held a local fundraiser, a birthday party at The Zone Skate Center in Dalton. The business agrees to donate half of the proceeds from their fee back to the family of Zoe Gilley. Instead of asking for presents, Ryleigh asked her guests to donate gift cards for the family.

“It’s rare for a kid her age, I think, to do that,” Stephanie Ledford said.

She said the fact her daughter made a name for herself through popular YouTube videos — including one in which she uses humor to respond to criticism over having to wear braces — and was able to use that status to draw people to the party and get a greater outpouring of support for the Gilleys.

Stephanie said God laid a desire on Ryleigh’s heart to help out.

“Ry explained (to the family) that sometimes God chooses someone to be helped because he knows that once they are on their feet they will then help someone else and the cycle will continue,” Stephanie said. “That is why this family is so deserving because they will and do help others in need.”

Zoe was released from a hospital stay the day of Ryleigh’s party, Stephanie Ledford said. Her family has been pushing for a bill that would legalize a form of marijuana for specific medical uses in hopes that it would help Zoe and others.

Ryleigh learned about the family through her father. He had taken a call at work from a friend of the Gilleys that led him to work with several people to have a generator delivered to them before some severe weather.

“He shared this story with Ryleigh, and that is when God led her to help,” Stephanie Ledford said. “Her birthday was coming up, and what a perfect idea. Instead of gifts she asked for gift cards for the family.”

For her act of kindness and having the vision to look beyond herself, The Daily Citizen names Ryleigh Ledford Citizen of the Week.