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'We're Getting Just Tubs of These Cards': Nation Responds to 5-Year-Old Texas Church Shooting Victim's Request

12-18-2017
Ryland Ward. Courtesy Sarah Stokes Ward & Facebook.
Ryland Ward. Courtesy Sarah Stokes Ward & Facebook.

Ryland Ward, the 5-year-old boy who survived last month's horrific church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, has found comfort in Christmas cards.

The boy was shot five times after a gunman entered the First Baptist Church and opened fire. His stepmother JoAnne Ward and two sisters were among the 26 people killed on Nov. 5.

Ryland has been in the hospital ever since that day, waiting to hear from his doctors that he can go home. 

"I've heard, 'He'll be out by Christmas,' then 'six to eight weeks,' so we're kind of just waiting to see what happens," Ryland's grandmother, Sandy Stokes Ward, told InsideEdition.com. "Before all of this happened, he was a going, going, going kid. Always on the move. He wants to go; he tries to spend all his time outside of his room in the hospital."

With the boy's mobility being limited, the Ward family has tried to do things to keep him busy and to lift his spirits.

"He likes getting cards," Ward said.

Ward first asked her friends on Facebook to send her grandson cards, a request that was reported last week by CBN News.

"It just went crazy," she said. "Christmas cards, get well cards, writing letters; he's just been having so much fun with them. It gives him something to do every day in the hospital."

His grandmother also gave him a goal to shoot for this Christmas --- a go-kart 

"I told him to ask for a dollar in each of his cards," Ward said. "It's not about getting the go-kart; it's about the card. If it was about the go-kart me and my husband would go buy it for him, but I want him and his dad to go and be able to pick it out together. He's working at something, to get better for this — it's something to look forward to."

In response, hundreds of letters and cards have inundated the Sutherland Springs Post Office.  All are from elementary school, families, college students and police departments across the country.

"Sutherland Springs said they've never had this much mail before," Ward laughed. "We're getting just tubs of these cards.  

"It's just so neat. I wish I could say thank you to every person who sent us something. I wish I could give everybody a hug," she told Inside Edition.

Ward also said the cards and letters have also brought comfort to Ryland's father, Chris Ward. 

"My son Chris, he loves reading them," she said. "He's having a rough time."

Ryland's father is now trying his best to balance being there for his son and for his 9-year-old stepdaughter Rihanna.  The hospital where Ryland is being treated for his wounds is more than an hour away from the family's home. 

"She's with her aunt right now and has been moved to a different school. She's having a rough time of it," Ward said. "She's 9 — he's raised her since she was a baby. To her, she's lost her whole family."

The grandmother also asked that people consider writing to Rihanna as well.

"She's lost her mom and sisters," Ward said, growing quiet. "Everybody has looked forward to the cards. It's uplifting for the whole family."

Ward said her family members have not spoken about the shooting to the little boy.  They want him to heal first. 

"The only thing he's talked about is 'the bad man with the gun' he had to hide from," Ward said. "He asked for JoAnne a lot at first. He would wake up and say, 'Dad, we gotta hide, we gotta hide.' 

"Right now, we're just trying to keep his mind off what happened. We just want to keep him upbeat. The cards are helping," she explained. 

If you would like to send a letter or a card to Ryland and/or Rihanna, their contact address is listed below:

Ryland Ward
P.O. Box 174
Sutherland Springs, Texas, 78161

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