Inaugural Ryan Ewald Memorial Toy Drive
By Tech. Sgt. Brett R. Ewald, 148th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 10, 2013
DULUTH, Minn. -- "It was "Wood's" thing. He heard of it and was all about helping these kids out." stated Master Sgt. Ryan Gigliotti, friend and former crew chief co-worker. "Hey let's do something cool! He wanted to start it as a challenge to other squadrons." reflected Master Sgt. Wayne "Willy" Teachworth, a friend and fellow crew chief co-worker. "He was big on helping others. It was his thing to do."
The Ryan Ewald Memorial Toy Drive is dedicated to efforts by the late Tech. Sgt. Ryan G. Ewald. He died as a result of an ATV accident in Northeastern Minnesota Sept. 28, 2013.
Ewald, also known as "Wood," first served as a fuel cell technician and most recently as an F-16 C Fighting Falcon crew chief at the 148th Fighter Wing with the Minnesota Air National Guard in Duluth. He was a member of the unit from 1998-2013.
While a crew chief, Ewald started a children's bike drive in 2010 with the majority of donations coming from fellow 148th Crew Chiefs. Master Sgt. Ryan Gigliotti reflected back upon the initial conversation, "We heard about it on the radio. It sounded like a great idea. Let's do it." By the end of the December 2010 drill weekend they, "Had about $600 and we bought about eight to 10 bikes," Gigliotti commented. These bikes were donated to a local radio station as part of a larger bike drive.
In 2012 alone, the crew chiefs raised between $800 - $900, allowing Ewald and Gigliotti to purchase three shopping carts full of toys. These toys were then donated to the Toys for Tots Foundation.
The sudden death of Ewald this fall spurred the idea to continue and expand upon their previous bike and toy drives. Thus was born the Ryan Ewald Memorial Toy Drive in 2013.
When asked about Ewald's reason for the bike and toy drives, Master Sgt. Ryan Gigliotti replied, "It was something he was big about, and would have liked us to continue."
At present, the 148th Crew Chief bike drive has been expanded into a 148th Fighter Wing wide toy drive.