Justin Mancias of Keller Williams Platinum Realty led a committee who successfully organized Ryderfest, a community event and cornhole tournament that generated an astounding $30,000 in donations for two local charities. This event, named in memory of Ryder Knechtle, has provided a substantial boost to the IM ABLE Foundation, committed to making a difference in the lives of children living with disabilities and Elle’s Angels Foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for DIPG, a form of childhood cancer.
“We do what we do for Elle’s Angels Foundation purely out of love,” said Mancias. “The Knechtle’s have been very important friends who have shared some of the most important moments of our lives. When Ryder was diagnosed, we made a promise that we would help battle D.I.P.G. alongside his family and in his name as long as we are able! Ryder left behind such a powerful legacy of love and support throughout our community, and we want to make sure his legacy continues to grow day after day.”
“The IM ABLE portion of this event is easy to understand,” continued Mancias. “About three years ago, we tagged along to IM ABLE’s IM FIT Inclusive Group Fitness Class (an adaptive fitness class) with our little buddy Joey Motherwell. Seeing the confidence boost and the positive atmosphere provided for families was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. These kids all too often are sidelined due to their disability. The avenues, the equipment, the events, and programs available through IM ABLE are an incredible boost for a part of our community who may often feel the need for additional support. Just hearing some of the incredible stories about how this foundation has helped so many individuals is truly inspiring.”
“Both of these foundations are here for one purpose” said Mancias, “to provide hope in our community, and beyond, for people who absolutely need it most. We will continue to support these Foundations for years to come thanks to their commitment to providing love, hope, and confidence. The friends we’ve made along the way are also an extra special bonus.”
Ryderfest was named after Ryder Knechtle who was diagnosed with DIPG, a form of childhood cancer, and lost his battle with the disease in 2022 at six years old. “The grief really isn’t better, and I don’t think it ever will be,” Toby posted on Facebook one year after Ryder passed. “It’s our new normal forever. But we’re all moving forward and finding that peace.”
While Ryder was undergoing treatment, Ryder’s parents, Toby and Jenna, of Sinking Spring, PA were introduced to Derek and Kristi Caruso of Langhorne, PA whose daughter Elle was also fighting the disease. Elle lost her battle to DIPG when she was also just five years old.
Together, The Knechtles and the Carusos have focused the grief they feel from the loss of their children into positive energy, raising funds to find a cure for DIPG through the non-profit Elle’s Angels Foundation.
“Elle has inspired us,” said Derek, “and so many, from her battle with cancer. She left her mark on this world in just five short years that some may never do in a lifetime. She was an inspiration to so many people across this world. Elle showed everyone what a strong, resilient little girl she was. She was battling for her life, but it never stopped her from living or loving. Life is so precious, and we need to cherish every moment of it. We are never promised tomorrow, which is why it is so important to spend our time here on earth with a purpose. During Elle’s journey, she brought so many people together, a large loving support group that we call ‘Elle’s Angels.’ We are going to continue to honor our daughter’s legacy through Elle’s Angels Foundation. The mission of Elle’s Angels Foundation is to advocate and fund essential research to discover effective treatments for pediatric brain cancer, with an emphasis on diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). Of childhood cancer related deaths in this country, brain tumors are the #1 cause of those deaths which receives less than 1% of federal funding for research. We partner with children’s hospitals and research departments locally and across the country to help find a cure.”
Chris Kaag founded the IM ABLE Foundation in Wyomissing in 2007 to provide kids like Ryder and Elle, and people living with disabilities of all ages, with adaptive sports equipment and inclusive sports opportunities, enabling them to get active. “IM ABLE serves people of all abilities. I served in the Marines and it instilled in me a passion for physical fitness. My military career ended when I was diagnosed with adrenomyeloneuropathy which ended my career in the Marines but opened up a new path helping kids who don’t have the same options as able-bodied kids. Getting active is important for your body, but it’s also important for mental health. We are here for these kids who deserve the same opportunities as everyone else has, to have friends and a community around them, celebrating what they can do, whatever that is.”
“Ryderfest is a reminder that we are not alone in this fight,” said Derek Caruso. Kaag agreed, “it’s a reminder that we have this amazing community that steps up to make amazing things happen. We’re surrounded by great people who support our missions and all the people we serve. It’s unbelievable how much money they raised, and how fun it was. That’s important.”
Jesse Berger served on the planning committee and manages the Liberty Fire Company in Sinking Spring, the location for the tournament. “When Justin approached us about holding the event here, our members asked how they could help and they contributed their time to help pull it together, raffle baskets, and donations. One of our bartenders has a son, Joey, who participates in IM ABLE programming, so people were even more motivated to help. It’s one of those things: the more we do it, the more we see the positive effect it has on people, the more we want to do. We’re proud to be a part of it all.”
- Elle’s Angels Foundation
- Rally for Ryder
- Justin Mancias – Keller Williams Platinum Realty
Our generous donors and volunteers made this possible and we can’t thank them enough.