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On October 12, 2018 the Phoenix Center commemorated our son, Ryan Warter, who passed away in May 2018, by planting a Dogwood tree in honor of his 18th birthday.  Warter Strong supports the Phoenix Center's mission of caring for, educating and empowering students so they may develop life-centered skills which will help prepare them for life beyond the classroom.


A charitable donation was made to the school's nursing office... in an effort to help children needing medical support during their school days.



Written by Amy Bolliger, the Phoenix Center, Nutley NJ 

To say that Ryan touched our lives is an understatement. I can truly say Barbara Cash Warter that having your son give me the great honor of being his friend and to give and receive his love was one of the greatest gifts I could receive.

My friend & super hero Ryan Warter

Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people. A friend is someone who is willing to love you as you are. A friend is loyal. A friend respects you and trusts you. A friend will make sacrifices for you.

Ryan understood friendship more than one person could hope to in a lifetime.

I believe Ryan loved characters so much because he could relate so well to their defining traits on friendship and courage, which also happened to make that character so loveable.

Ryan was a friend like Woody was to Buzz. Woody went out of his way to make Buzz realize he was special even if there were thousands of Buzz Lightyears sitting on the toy shelves. Whenever Ryan saw his friends, he had a routine with each of us to let us know how special we were to him. He asked you about your pets, he paid you a compliment, he signed, “I love you.”

Ryan was a friend like Han Solo to Chewbacca. Han and Chewie couldn’t speak the same language but their friendship was the strongest in the Galaxy. Ryan gently fixed my hands when my signs were sloppy so I could learn to better speak his language. He took the time and patience to teach his friends in Room 204 how to sign. He made no judgements.

There is no question that Ryan loved those Minions from Despicable Me. But if you think about it, they demonstrated an incredible amount of loyalty to Gru. Even if they didn’t always agree with Gru, they did their work, they did it well and they respected their leader just like Ryan did as our student.


Ryan’s trust of his loving team at The Phoenix Center, even when he was at his most vulnerable, reminds me of Marlin learning to trust Dory in the belly of the whale. Ryan had total trust in us.

When Simba felt weak, defeated, and lost, the lion reached deep inside to face his greatest challenges, drawing from the strength of his father. Ryan was indeed, Warter Strong.

Mike and Sulley used Boo’s laughter to harvest it for energy. Ryan’s laughter filled The Phoenix Center with more joy than Monstropolis could hope for.

I have to include The Loud House for you Ryan. Mom has 75 episodes on the DVR. I like to think you were hoping for life imitating art. You gained two sisters and a brother, your house got “louder,” just like Lincoln.


Woody never turned his back on his friends. Woody made the ultimate sacrifice by leaving his beloved home with Andy. He left for Bonnie’s where he was needed the most. Even in Ryan’s passing, he lives on in the lives he saved.


This moves him from the title of “Friend” to the title of “Super Hero” in my book.


Every time we parted ways, Ryan was sure to sign, “Friends, Always.” You didn’t want to do anything but emphatically agree with your entire heart. “Yes, Ryan! Friends, Always!” Ryan, You will always be our friend and our superhero.



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