There are a few reasons why Ryan Boyle wanted to write a book. People urged him to write it, he has an inspiring story to tell, and he wanted to thank the people of Monroe for all they did for him after his accident nine years ago.
“This book is just my way of giving back,” Boyle told those gathered to meet him during a book-signing at Linda’s Story Time in Monroe, his former hometown. “So much of my recovery has been through you and the rest of the town and the entire population of Connecticut.”
A steady stream of friends and admirers waited to purchase books and have Boyle sign them. He was a celebrity of sorts — and, many would say, for all the right reasons.
“It’s bigger than Harry Potter,” said an excited Linda Devlin, bookstore owner. “I’m so honored.”
Boyle, now a college freshman at age 19, joked about all the attention he was receiving. “This is my first big break,” he said. “People actually want to take their picture with me. They want my signature.”
He said he had been treated like “a rock star” when he spoke at his alma mater, St. Joseph High School, during his trip to Connecticut from Georgia, where he and his family now live.
Erica Martino, 20, was one of those eager to get the book and chat with Boyle. She attended Monroe Elementary School with him, and his mother, Nancy, was her fourth grade teacher at Monroe El.
She still recalls when her mother told her about the accident. Boyle, then 10, was hit and dragged by a pickup truck in Monroe while riding a Big Wheel at a friend’s birthday party. “She came up to my room and said, ‘Ryan has been in an accident,’” Martino said.
The town and St. Jude parish united behind Ryan and his family, praying he would survive.
Martino now is studying to become a special education teacher, inspired partly by her friend’s recovery. “He has an amazing story to tell,” she said.
Never give up
Boyle combined humor and directness when speaking at the bookstore about When the Lights Go Out: A Boy Given a Second Chance, which he wrote during a summer break from school.
“So many people have approached me through the years and said, ‘Your story is amazing. There’s nothing like it. You should write a book.’ I just bit the bullet [and did it],” Boyle said.
He said people facing difficulties should never give up, and can’t be limited by a negative diagnosis from medical staff. “So many doctors told me what I was never going to do,” he said. “And I’m doing everything they said I’d never do. … Some things just aren’t set in stone.”
Boyle said it’s important to keep on pushing. “It will be a long road, but you’ll definitely get through it,” Boyle said. “You’ll get what you put into it.”
He said he feels a sense of accomplishment. “From being motionless in a bed for two months, and then waking up and only being able to move a single finger, to where I am now,” he said of his progress.
Boyle talked about how much he liked being able to visit in Monroe. “I have memories of what my life was like before my accident,” he said. “I knew what it was like to run around and go biking. I’m biking again. It’s my first love. I was actually on a bike when my mom had me.”
‘I wasn’t alone’
Some of the people meeting with Boyle had been in accidents or had disabilities, and wanted to tell him how much they admired what he had accomplished.
One of them was Matt Malfettone, a junior at St. Joseph High School, who is two years younger than Boyle.
“He made me feel like I wasn’t alone when I was [at St. Joe’s], because he was there with a physical disability,” Malfettone said. “He kind of took me under his wing.”
Malfettone said he now hopes to create his own inspirational legacy, following in Boyle’s footsteps. “Ryan Boyle is one of those shining stars in the night sky of goodness,” he said.
Laura Lawson of Monroe was Boyle’s aide when he attended Chalk Hill School, after the accident. “He was incredible,” Lawson said. “He was very determined to succeed, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
She said he was in a wheelchair in fifth grade but was using a walker by sixth grade.
Patty Eng, who knew the Boyles from St. Jude Church and St. Joseph High, was impressed with Ryan as well. “What an incredible journey — not only for him, but his whole family,” Eng said.
Ryan’s aunt, Marie Boyle of Southport, admired how her nephew interacted with everyone at the book-signing.
“We’ve seen him through the whole thing,” she said. “He has so much perseverance — and his sense of humor has helped him a lot.”
His grandmother, Bernadette Boyle of Southport, also was in awe. “This is exciting for us and certainly for him,” she said. “He worked so hard for it — and the support is very important. He’s a remarkable young man.”
Devlin agreed. “He truly is a hometown hero,” she said. “He had to work for this.”