For Ryan Maloney, life is all about connection. It’s something he knows well as he leads a life abundant with volunteerism and generosity, which brings him much joy—and a community of like-minded people.
“You never know what connections you will make when you’re out there volunteering,” said Ryan, a fundholder at the Galesburg Community Foundation. He also serves as a volunteer at the Community Foundation’s Community Treasures Thrift Store and has been active in the community for years.
Ryan grew up in the Galesburg community with cerebral palsy, and when he returned home after 3 years at a specialized school in Chicago, he struggled to transition back to a place that had changed during the time he was away. “I was feeling lost at the time,” he said. “Many of my friends and the people I’d grown up with were gone. It was hard.”
He thought volunteering would give him a different direction and purpose, and Community Treasures took a chance on him. “The staff at Community Treasures is so accommodating,” he said. “They have helped me out so much professionally and personally.”
The work at the thrift store kicked off a desire to do more—to help more. “Volunteering has filled so much for me and allowed me to get other volunteer opportunities,” he said. “I’m proud of this.”
Ryan hopes his impact on the region through Community Treasures inspires others to step outside their comfort zone and find a place to give, either of their time or money. Through social media, he’s on a mission to educate. He has worked to connect people with volunteer opportunities, introduce staff from fellow organizations to each other, and to help other people understand what Galesburg Community Foundation does. “The opportunities to support our community are out there. You may have challenges, but anyone can work or volunteer, even if you have a disability,” he said.
That is one of the reasons Ryan participates in Rainbow Riders Therapeutic Horseback Riding, an organization supported by the Community Foundation. Foundation staff introduced him to the program in 2013 and encouraged him to try it out. “It’s helped my muscles and body get better and stronger,” he said. “I was nervous to start, but it’s been great. I have grown so much. It was new to me, and I am proud of overcoming my fear.”
Rainbow Riders was on the list when Ryan recently celebrated his 30th birthday and marked it by making gifts to local organizations, including the Stone Hayes Center for Independent Living, and the Knox County YMCA through the Ryan J. Maloney Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation. Giving is all about creating ripples of positive change throughout the community, Ryan said. “I like to give back to a community that has given so much support to my family and me. I hope people see that there are so many opportunities to give and so much to love about this community.”
“I hope people see that there are so many opportunities to give and so much to love about this community.”