25 Years After Ryan White's Death, He is Still Educating Families About AIDS and The Power of Children

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Ryan White's legacy is remembered at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis in a recreated bedroom with his personal belongings and celebrity memorabilia. His mother continues to visit frequently to share his story and help others deal with bullying.

Jeanne White Ginder hugging her son - Ryan White

You can hear all kinds of numbers and say - kids all around the world are being bullied. But, to hear someone actually speak about bullying and how it affected them personally, it then becomes real.

It has been 25 years since the passing of Ryan White (April 8, 1990). Yet, the world still remembers a courageous young man who fought to attend school and who helped changed world views by helping people understand HIV & AIDS. Today, his mother Jeanne White Ginder and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis keep his legacy alive through a powerful exhibit, called Power of Children: Making a Difference. The exhibit uses the stories of three real life children to share how they changed the world despite their tragic circumstances.

Ryan White is one of those children. He was diagnosed with hemophilia as an infant and treated with a new drug made from blood. At the young age of thirteen, Ryan was one of the first hemophiliacs in the United States to be diagnosed with the deadly disease, HIV/AIDS, which he contracted through a tainted blood treatment. Ryan was discriminated against by many in his hometown and fought to attend school because others were afraid of his illness. Ryan and his mother took his battle to federal court and won. Since then, Ryan’s story has educated and impacted people worldwide.

In 2001, the White family donated much of Ryan’s possessions and memorabilia to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. In The Power of Children: Making a Difference exhibit, children and families are invited into a replica of Ryan’s 1980s bedroom to learn about Ryan’s life and the impact he made across the nation. His mother wants people to understand he was an ordinary teenager who wanted nothing more than to fit in and play with his friends. The recreation of his bedroom includes some of his most prized possessions including an Olympic gold medal gifted by diver Greg Lougainis, autographed celebrity posters of celebrities who became his friends (Elton John, Michael Jackson, Allisa Milano and Max Headroom to name a few), several pieces of his toy collections.

His mother, Jeanne White Ginder, believes it’s extremely important to personally visit The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis frequently to share her families’ story and help others who are dealing with bullying and intolerance. She says, “You can hear all kinds of numbers and say - oh kids all around the world are being bullied. But, to hear someone actually speak about bullying and how it affected them personally, it then becomes real. I think by putting a real face to the epidemic I think it helps people understand and relate more to the story.”

When diagnosed with HIV in December 1984, White was given six months to live. He survived six more years and used that time to teach the world valuable lessons about AIDS education, tolerance and acceptance. White Ginder is touched that he continues to teach that lesson through the exhibit at The Children’s Museum.

The youth featured in The Power of Children are Anne Frank (child of the 40s), Ruby Bridges (child of the 60s), and of course Ryan White (child of the 80s). Each overcame incredible intolerance during their young lives. Ruby Bridges was escorted by Federal Marshals who protected her during the integration of African Americans into schools in the Deep South. Anne Frank was a Dutch-Jewish teenager who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. Each historically accurate setting transports visitors to the past and immerses them in those historic events.

About The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a nonprofit institution committed to creating extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. For more information about The Children's Museum, visit http://www.childrensmuseum.org, follow us on Twitter @TCMIndy, Facebook.com/childrensmuseum and YouTube.com/IndyTCM

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Kimberly Harms
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
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