Church shooting victims' family wants to thank the community

Ryland Ward with his mother, Chancie McMahan. Courtesy photo.

We want to take time to give thanks to anyone and everyone who has been there for us orbeen there for Ryland.

Five-year-old Ryland Ward was shot five times when a gunman opened fire inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in early November.

His stepmother and two sisters were among the 26 people killed in the shooting and now Ryan is recovering from life-threatening injuries at San Antonio's University Hospital.

But Monday, some of his family members told us they wanted to send their thanks to the community for the outpouring of support they've seen since the tragic shooting.

"The gifts, the prayers, especially are greatly appreciated ," said Ryland's great-uncle, Earl McMahan, at a news conference at the hospital on Monday.

We believe that Ryland has come as far as he has because of the power of prayer. There's just been so many, you know, not just in Texas and the United States, but around the world that have been praying for him and others that were involved.

And little Ryland is getting some special joy from massive shipments of Christmas cards too.

Since News 4 San Antonio and other media outlets recently aired stories about how Ryland likes to get Christmas cards, his great-uncle tells us they have received several thousand.

"His smile gets bigger with every card that he opens up. I'm surprised his jaws don't hurt," McMahan laughed.

But the most important thing we ask for is that you continue the prayers. And so we just wanted to take an opportunity to say thanks and let everyone know it's greatly appreciated.

McMahan says the family really wanted to make sure to thank all the First Responders, including Rusty Duncan, who was the first to find and tend to little Ryland. He also wanted to praise the staff at San Antonio's University Hospital.

They’ve done such an awesome job for him. They are there with him from day one. They fought hard to keep him alive and harder to make sure he stayed alive. And we can’t really put into words how we feel about them. These people here are really awesome.

Ryland suffered a gunshot wound to his leg and still can't walk, but his family tells us he's going through physical therapy daily and is now able to stand on his good leg for two minutes.

He’s doing really well. At the beginning it was touch and go," said McMahon. "We weren’t sure. One day he’d take a step forward and the next day he’s two steps back. But he's such a tough little guy, he fought through it.

The five-year-old has undergone a number of surgeries, and is expected to need several more. But his family is hoping he'll be released from the hospital in early January.

"I don’t know. You can only hope. So he’s come a long ways so we can only continue to pray that everything comes out and he’s back to that five year old little boy running around tackling people, you know."

If you want to send cards, there are a couple of addresses which are accepting them. One is a Post Office Box:

Ryland WardPO Box 174 Sutherland Springs, TX 78161You can also send cards to: Ryland Ward, University Hospital4502 Medical Drive San Antonio, Texas 78229 Of course, don't forget there are many other victims and many other families suffering from the effects of the shooting throughout the area. And there are other ways to help them. You can find out more when you go to the facebook page of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. And tell them our thoughts and prayers are with them too.
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