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Family ties: Extended family, mom’s memory drives former NHS quarterback Ryan Bredin’s success

  • Northampton senior Ryan Bredin looks to pass during a game between Northampton and Longmeadow, Sept. 16, 2016 in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • Ryan Bredin’s aunt Kathie Bredin and uncle Alan Bloomgarden hold up a framed photo of Ryan and his two cousins, Sarah and Cailey, that a Gazette staff member took when Ryan first moved in with his relatives. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Ryan Bredin poses in front of his athletic memorabilia and trophies on June 1, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Ryan Bredin poses in front of his athletic memorabilia and trophies on June 1, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Ryan Bredin poses in front of his athletic memorabilia and trophies on June 1, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Ryan Bredin with his family members, from left, aunt Kathie Bredin, cousin Cailey Bredin, grandmother Marie Bredin, cousin Sarah Bloomgarden and uncle Alan Bloomgarden. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Ryan Bredin with his family members (left to right): Uncle Alan Bloomgarden, Cousin Sarah Bloomgarden, Cousin Cailey Bredin Grandmother Marie Bredin and Aunt Kathie Bredin on June 1, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Ryan Bredin sits on the edge of his bed and holds a football and pillow with a photo of his mother and him sewn onto it on June 1, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR



@Hargraves24
Friday, June 16, 2017

Moments before taking the field for each football game of his senior season, Ryan Bredin took a black marker and wrote a single word on his left wrist tape.

“Mom.”

Annemarie Bredin never saw her son become a quarterback for Northampton High School. When Ryan was in kindergarten, he lost his mother to cervical cancer. He writes her name on his wrist because he likes to have her with him when plays.

“I started doing it sophomore year before my first varsity start to honor her,” Ryan said. “It just stuck with me from then on. I definitely plan on doing the same thing for her the next four years.”

Ryan will play football in the fall at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. The recent high school graduate’s path to college started in New York. Extended family, the community and sports helped keep Ryan on that path.

Coping with loss

Ryan was born with the help of a sperm donor in Albany, New York. As a premature baby with asthma, Annemarie needed assistance, so she moved to Oneonta, New York, to live with her parents.

Ryan’s memories of his mother are faint. Annemarie worked as a bookkeeper for an insurance company.

“I remember she worked hard,” he said. “She had to, she was single mom.”

Ryan was 5 years old when his mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. When Annemarie made her frequent trips to the hospital, Ryan stayed home.

“I was a little kid,” he said. “My mom was always away and I didn’t know why.”

Ryan was very close with his grandparents, Marie and David Bredin. They watched Ryan during Annemarie’s treatments.

After the diagnosis, it took four months for the cancer to take over her body and for Ryan, now 6, to realize that she was gone.

“The day she passed my aunt and uncle came back from the hospital,” Ryan said. “The moment it hit me was when they were in the sliding door and they had my mom’s suitcase, but she wasn’t there.”

Support system

Annemarie was the youngest of four children to David and Marie. Her sister Kathie was eight years older.

“I promised her I would take Ryan as my own,” Kathie said. “Ryan brought her great, great joy. Her dream in life was to have a child.”

In 2005, Ryan moved to Northampton to live with his aunt, uncle Alan Bloomgarden and cousins Cailey Bredin and Sarah Bloomgarden.

There was a period of adjustment for the family with Ryan in the home. Since birth, Ryan was a handful for Annemarie and his grandparents, who followed Ryan and moved to Hatfield.

“He was a tough little kid,” Kathie said. “Defiant. He wouldn’t listen. But obviously he was a joy.”

Ryan had a lot of energy, which didn’t blend well in a quiet house at first.

“He rocked our world,” Kathie said. “He was rambunctious, energetic and kind of self-centered. He was used to three parents.”

Cailey and Sarah were both incredibly patient and had a calming effect, while Alan had a positive influence on Ryan, according to Kathie.

“He (Alan) was a father figure to me,” Ryan said. “He went to all my games. Cooked for me, even though I was very picky.”

Ryan’s grandfather introduced him to football and both would watch Notre Dame on Saturday afternoons. David, who was another father figure, died when Ryan was 8.

“There was a tremendous connection to my father and his early upbringing to football,” Kathie said.

Ryan knows nothing about the identity of his father, but he learned there was a connection to football. After reading a general information packet about him, he found out that he played the sport.

“In a way that has always made me feel connected to him,” Ryan said.

Ryan is unsure if he would pursue finding him.

“I might put some effort into finding him just to meet him and learn about his life,” Ryan said. “But I don’t worry about it too much.”

With the help of family, the Northampton school system and various coaches, Ryan matured and some of the behaviors from his youth began to fade.

Ryan also spent time at The Garden, a program in Northampton that helps people who have experienced loss in their lives.

There, he made a pillow with his mother’s picture on it, which he still has in his room.

“Northampton is an amazing place,” Kathie said. “I am appreciative of all of Ryan’s teachers. They have been amazing for him. His coaches, too. They were really patient with him and taught him sportsmanship, which he didn’t have naturally.”

Besides football, Ryan also played basketball and lacrosse for the Blue Devils. It was football, though, where he shined and it turned into an opportunity to play Division II at St. Anselm.

“It was a unique circumstance,” Kathie said. “It’s like a journey. I didn’t realize how much that was going to be the pivotal moment. I feel like we made it to the top of the mountain with him.”

St. Anselm coach Joe Adam was familiar with that journey.

“We talked about his life story and it’s captivating,” Adam said. “I am about recruiting survivors and fighters.”

At Northampton, Ryan played quarterback and safety.

“He had a pulse on the offense and the team,” said his coach, Pat Sledzieski. “He had a calming influence and was a coach on the field. He never got rattled.”

At St. Anselm he could play wide receiver or tight end.

“The first thing I loved about football was catching it,” Ryan said. “But I told (Coach) I will play anywhere. I just want to play football.”

Ryan’s family already has plans to visit Manchester on Saturdays.

Wherever Ryan plays on the field, he’ll have his family with him. They’ll be in the stands, in his memories and on his wrist.

“I achieved what I promised my sister on her deathbed,” Kathie said. “I think she would have been so proud of him, to know that he’s going to college and playing football — doing what he loves.”