Make your home page

Ryan White’s mom: “He’s still touching people” through new museum project

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -You can say a lot with a pen and some paper.

Thank you. Get well. Keep fighting.

Ryan White, an Indiana boy diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 13, opened letters holding those words and thousands more throughout the 1980s. The mail came from doctors, celebrities, and regular kids from across the world.

“Most of Ryan’s mail was from kids. He liked that,” Ryan’s mom, Jeanne White Ginder said. “Kids with all different types of handicaps. Kids would say, I know how you feel. They treat me bad at school because I look different.”

Now researchers from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and IUPUI are organizing 6,000 letters sent to Ryan, who died in 1990 from complications related to AIDS. They’ll eventually be made public online and put on display at the museum.

Doctors diagnosed the 13-year-old from Kokomo with AIDS after he received a contaminated blood treatment for hemophilia. He became a victim of discrimination and misunderstanding while fighting to return to school and the legal battle garnered national attention.

“There are a lot more people who are not afraid of AIDS now and I think they’re more willing to accept people who have AIDS,” Ryan said during one TV interview.

Jeanne is spreading the word about the new project, speaking to crowds gathered in a replica of Ryan’s bedroom which has been on display the children’s museum since 2007. She spoke at the exhibit Friday and will do so again on Saturday and Sunday.

“His whole life has amazed me so in every process,” she said. “And this is another process where he can reach kids and he’s still kind of alive. He’s still touching people.”

If Ryan were here today, he’d be getting more emails than letters. Nine-year-old Neveah Bush, who met Ryan’s mom Friday, said she’d have something to say.

“I would just say that you are very strong,” Bush said. “You sacrificed everything and all those kids bullied you and you just got your way through it and you didn’t care what they thought.”

Jeanne said she hopes people can learn from the letters, the way they’ve learned from Ryan’s story for the past three decades.

She said the letters were overwhelmingly positive, but some people told her she should keep Ryan at home. Researchers said they plan to publicize some of the negative letters.

An exact date has not been set on when the letters will be made public.

The children’s museum is looking for feedback from anyone who wrote Ryan a letter. The staff can be reached at

Never miss another Facebook post from WISH-TV