Lipperts arrange for new suit in memory of their son, Ryan
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Ryan Lippert loved to play Royalton’s lion mascot, moving through the high school during pep week dressed in the costume, making his fellow classmates smile.
Linda Lippert, Ryan’s mom, had mended the old costume on more than one occasion, one time even putting new teeth in the lion’s mouth.
When Ryan’s parents, Tom and Linda, were trying to decide how best to use memorial funds after Ryan died in February, it didn’t take long to think of Royalton’s mascot costume.
Ryan, the youngest of the Lipperts’ three children, graduated in 2008. Todd graduated in 2002 and Kellie in 2005.
“Ryan had such school spirit and pep,” said Linda. “He just loved kids.”
Tom and Linda looked up lion costumes online and decided that they wanted Royalton kids to pick it out. Tom called Activities Director Brent Lieser and discovered that a costume had been chosen and fundraising was being held.
“Their choice was one of our two choices,” Tom said. “We told him to just order it and we would pay for it. And we wanted to be in the audience when the costume was introduced.”
At Royalton Elementary’s monthly bell-ringing recognition ceremony in March, “Ryan the Lion” was introduced to the students. The Lipperts were excited to see the kids hugging the lion and high-fiving him.
“We hope Ryan the Lion can help to instill Royal pride, Royal spirit and good sportsmanship into everyone he meets,” said Tom.
Ryan Lippert had first suffered a bout of depression in seventh grade, and was hospitalized for treatment. He took medication for about a year.
After discussing it with his parents and the doctor, Ryan went off his medication.
“They had taught him a lot of coping skills like exercise, prayer and playing video games,” said Tom. “They taught him recognition skills.”
As a high school senior, Ryan recognized that he was having difficulty with the depression again and told his parents he needed to go back to the doctor. He took meds for about five months, which stabilized him.
“He met the normal struggles of college life just fine,” Linda said.
But he didn’t identify that he was in trouble in February and was overcome by the depression, committing suicide one night.
“There is a misconception about people and depression,” said Linda, “that they are isolated or an outcast or a misfit somehow.”
Ryan had been active on the Student Council, in football, basketball, track, marching band, 4-H and his congregation during his middle school and high school years. He was on the football team which went to the state tournament in 2007, was a AAA award winner and a homecoming king candidate.
While attending the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, he joined a fraternity. He participated in a Pay it Forward spring break mission trip that took him to Mississippi and New Orleans.
“He was very well-liked,” Tom said. “His boss in North Dakota told us Ryan was such an upbeat guy.”
Ryan’s nickname was Big Bear because he gave everyone big bear hugs.
“Everyone remembers Ryan for his great big smile,” Linda said. “He was such a happy kid. He just loved kids and being a coach. He wanted to work with kids.”
“We’d like his memory to be about laughter — the happy Ryan, the real Ryan,” Tom and Linda said.
In addition to purchasing the Ryan the Lion costume, the Lipperts have also donated money to be used for playground equipment for their congregation, Faith Lutheran.
“It was given for the eventual construction of a playground,” Tom said. “With ground being broken this month, we’ll know after the building is up where to put the playground.”
“Ryan was a happy, caring kid,” Tom said. “We want to thank the community for the memorial funds that were used for the mascot and for Faith’s playground. There has been such an outpouring of financial and moral support.”
The Lipperts would like others to know that when trouble comes, the most important things are to “Be there for each other and to rely on God.”