When grandson Brad Ryan first told his grandmother, Joy, about hiking at U.S. National Parks, he was shocked to find out she has never seen a mountain in person in her entire almost-9-decades of life. Thanks to a huge heart and the generosity of others, Brad has set out to fix that for her.
There are 61 National Parks in the United States, but until her grandson stepped in, Joy Ryan hadn’t been to a single one. She’d never seen the coast – any coast – or ocean. No mountains, no canyons, no big rampaging rivers. None of the things America’s incredible National Parks are known for. When her husband was still alive, the two would visit lake in Florida, never made it to the coast.
After telling her grandson Brad this, he couldn’t shake it. “She told me at that time that she really, really regretted that she didn’t get to do more of that type of thing and have more experiences in life,” Ryan tells CBS News.
Joy has never been the type to ask others for anything, though. Currently just one year shy of 90-years-old, the grandmother lives in Duncan, Ohio. She describes it as a “two-traffic-light town” – and she’s not wrong. Here, she spent her life working a minimum wage job to raise three sons. Two of her sons died tragically young on her. Since then, she’s become a leukemia survivor – and sometimes continues to battle the fallout through pneumonia.
In short: she is a selfless, storied, and incredible woman.
Such traits must run deep in her DNA, too, because adult grandson Brad is determined to make all her National Park dreams come true.
Tragedy unites Grandmother & Grandson National Park Traveling Duo
Brad was attending veterinary school back in 2015 when tragedy struck for him, as well. A classmate and friend committed suicide – and Brad began to struggle. Instead of retreating into himself, however, Brad took it upon himself to celebrate life – and celebrate it with the woman he knew would love it, too.
Brad invited Joy on a three-day camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From there – the rest is history.
Grandmother Joy was ecstatic. She saw mountains – real mountains – for the first time in her life. The grandson and grandmother had such fun adventuring together, too, that in 2017 Brad made a GoFundMe campaign for the duo.
Since then, the pair has visited 29 parks, with no signs of slowing down:
With 38 states and over 25,000 miles under their belts, the pair have been incredibly active the past three years. So much so, that they’ve become official Road Scholars travelers. If Brad has his way, his grandmother will see all U.S. National Parks well before she’s ready to call it quits.
To keep up with Grandmother Joy and Grandson Brad – you can follow their travels on Instagram: