Ryan Cotter, the inspiration and namesake behind Ryan House of Phoenix, died Dec. 7 of unexpected complications from spinal muscular atrophy, his family announced Monday. He died peacefully at Ryan House, surrounded by family and the team that became an extended family to him for the past eight and a half years. He was 17.
Cottor was born in 2001, while his parents, Jonathan and Holly Cottor, and his brother Ethan, were living in England. At 8 months, he was diagnosed with SMA, a rare motor neuron disease that affects muscles used for crawling, walking, head and neck control, swallowing and breathing. The diagnosis was devastating and offered little hope. Ryan needed constant care. He wasn’t expected to live to see his second birthday.
His parents rarely left his side. Physically and emotionally drained, the Cottors were relieved to find Helen House, a palliative and hospice care center in Oxford. At this “home away from home,” they received loving, professional care for Ryan, along with support, understanding and kinship with other families in similar situations.
When they returned to Phoenix in 2004, the Cotter family — including Ryan’s grandmother Sharon Cotter — became the catalyst for establishing the nonprofit Ryan House, with a mission to provide palliative care for children with chronic, life-limiting conditions and respite breaks for family caregivers.
Ryan was in his senior year of high school and had been accepted to ASU’s Digitial Culture degree program, where he would have studied graphic information technology. In a Facebook post, his father, John Cutter, shared an example of a recent video Ryan created, produced and published:
Ryan’s Celebration of Life will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19 in ASU’s Neeb Hall, 920 S. Forest Mall, Tempe. Payment for parking will be required because of the campus location. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that support be expressed through a donation to Ryan House or a charitable organization of your choice.