Ryan began the sock drive when he found out that socks are the most in demand, yet least donated items to homeless shelters.

At 11, Ryan Hill has plenty of activities (and schoolwork) to fill his days. When he’s not in class at Dover Intermediate School, he’s playing Fortnite, watching the Columbus Blue Jackets or hanging out with friends.

For the last three years, however, the sixth-grader has used some of his free time doing something charitable. Every October since third grade, he has organized a “Socktober” drive. So far, he’s collected more than 4,000 pairs of socks.

This year, his goal is to collect 1,000 pairs of new socks by Oct. 31. Ryan first became aware of the need when he was going into a hockey game and saw a homeless man outside. He asked his mom for a few dollars to give him. Then another day, when it was raining, he asked his parents where all the homeless people went to stay dry,

Ryan and his parents located a few homeless shelters in their area, and they learned that each shelter needed underwear and socks. Wanting to give back to his community, he found the Socktober national movement and began organizing his first sock drive in the third grade.

There is a need. An estimated 2,744 students in the Cleveland public school system are homeless. Last year, more than 23,000 people experienced homelessness in Cuyahoga County, according to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless website.

Ryan is not working alone. He asked The City Mission in Cleveland for help. He’s focused on new socks, he said, because they are one of the most in-demand items at shelters and one of the least-donated items.

“I think he’s taken a step back and looked at the bigger picture of society and sees that there are needs out there that he could potentially meet,” said Michael Parry with The City Mission. “He’s made it a priority himself to help in this way and it’s a good example that other children and adults can look to and say, ‘Can I do something similar?’”

Ryan had gathered 150 pairs as of last week, but he is confident he will meet his goal through donation boxes he set up; at his school and at Westlake City Hall. Ryan also has a wish list on Amazon for mailed-in donations.

“I just wanted to help all those people who are not as fortunate as us,” Ryan said. “I feel bad for them and I wanted to do something about it.”

Ryan said he will continue the drive even when he’s in high school.

“When I think about the future, as long as I know there are Ryan Hills in the world, I’ll feel good about it,” Dover Principal Nick Miller said. “It feels good to know that when I’m an old geezer, Ryan Hill is going to be running around society and doing great things for people.”

Contact this reporter at 440-871-5797 or akamczyc@westlifenews.com.

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