Day 119: A Letter For A Friend

by Tom Noonan

Dear Friends,

The trouble with writing about Ryan Shmokler isn’t overstatement; it’s finding the proper way to state exactly what this man means to us as a friend, son, brother, cousin, nephew, Wildcat, movie conversationalist, teammate, Dave and Busters enthusiast, Philly sports die-hard, BASEketball opponent, and the countless other roles he manages to assume on a daily basis. You’ll often hear people talk about the indefinable qualities of a person, the stuff that separates them from the pack, draws people to them, makes hours spent with them pass like minutes, and leaves an indelible mark on others’ lives constantly and forever. The trouble with writing on Ryan Shmokler is that he’s all indefinable qualities, all the type of person there aren’t the proper words to substantiate, all larger than language.

Normally, when you can’t find the words to describe someone, you present a story about them, show instead of tell, and there are a myriad of anecdotes that could fit here, that could try to get at just what kind of person Ryan is. The only thing about those stories is that they can never be told properly, because it’s not the plot that matters, not the actions themselves, but how they happen, the way that he goes about them. There’s a particular brand of die-hard friendship Ryan makes look effortless, a type of devoted heart worn on his sleeve that causes these events in these stories to feel like no brainers. This lack of hesitation in giving everyone in his life a piece of that heart is what defines Ryan, so it seems like this space should be left to our own memories rather than one specific story. Why talk about one game when you’re witnessing a Michael Jordan career?

As is true with any great career, or great story, there are the times that test the very nature of our protagonist, our friend. Over the past two years, Ryan, with the steadfast support of his family, has constantly been up against these types of tests, day after day, hospital after hospital, facing relentless emotional and physical weight with poise. As we’re sure you all know, Ryan has been diagnosed with RSD, a nerve disorder that has slowly crept up his body and left him bedbound for about “99.5% of the day”. It’s a disease that causes those who have it to experience a type of chronic pain incomparable to anything else and makes any human contact too excruciating to tolerate.

Since RSD is not fully understood and still actively being researched, there is no certain cure for the disease, but there are treatments that could very well lead to one. Tuesday, July 2nd, Ryan will begin an experimental treatment that will hopefully help him to recover from the brutal circumstances he suddenly found himself in just two years ago. Despite his uncertain future, as Ryan prepared to be admitted to the ICU to begin his treatment, it wasn’t just his own struggle that weighed on his mind, but anyone else’s who is also suffering from RSD, fighting to continue their own story, and searching for a cure. Heading into the treatment, Ryan proved yet again that this disease has never touched his heart or his soul for one minute, choosing to see a moment like this as a chance to rejuvenate more lives than just his own, saying, “I have an incurable disease. What can I do to help find a cure?”

It’s been an unimaginable path, one that he luckily hasn’t had to travel down alone, but it’s not over yet. Because little is known for sure about how exactly to treat RSD, the experimental treatment Ryan is undergoing will not be covered by his health insurance. In an attempt to help Ryan and his family during these tough times, there will be a fundraiser/benefit for Ryan on July 14th at Maloney’s in Ardmore, PA from 1-5:30 PM. There will be drink specials, raffles, door prizes, roast beef sandwiches, a Phillies game on the TVs, and more. More importantly, it is a chance for us all to get together and give our support and a piece of our heart to the man who constantly gives us a piece of his. The trouble with having a benefit for Ryan is that you can never do enough for the guy who always goes beyond “just enough”, but we hope this will be a start.

If you will be unable to make it to the benefit on the 14th, we have also set up a donation site online at: where donations can be made towards Ryan’s treatments costs.

Thank you for your time, and we hope to see you on the 14th.


Ryan Kincade, Kevin Smith, John and Tom Noonan