Nine-year-old Ryer Kadyk came all the way from Spokane, Washington, to do two things: hang out with his namesake river otter pal and raise money for San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay.
By all accounts, both efforts were extremely successful.
On Tuesday, Ryer helped raise more than $75,000 at a charity auction hosted by the Bay Ecotarium, a watershed conservation organization made up of several local institutions, including Aquarium of the Bay, Sea Lion Center, Studio Aqua, Bay Academy, Bay Model, the Bay Institute and Eco Expeditions.
He gave a speech to 175 people, including the former prime minister of Greece, about his special friendship with the 8-year-old otter and even helped the auctioneer drum up enthusiasm during the event.
On Wednesday, he got to hang out with Ryer the river otter before flying back home.
Shortly after his visit, Ryer said:
“I just met him right now for the second time and gave him some ice cakes with some fish on top.”
The first time the two Ryers met was just before spring break, when the aquarium reopened after a 49-week closure forced upon it by the pandemic.
Ryer the human had been waiting to meet his furry buddy in person since last Christmas, when his mom Carolyn first learned the pair share a name.
Since her son had never met anyone with the same name, she reached out to aquarium staff and asked to buy a Ryer River Otter plush toy for him as a present.
After opening his gift, Ryer was able to learn about the real otter from the aquarium’s website and soon decided to donate his Christmas money, cash from his piggy bank and a contribution from his older brother to the aquarium.
Together with a second round of fundraising that involved the rest of the family, Ryer was able to send his otter friend a total of $750.
“It’s really special for me because I’ve never met anyone else with my same name before.”
“He’s just like me, playful and doesn’t get as motivated for food as his brother. He wants to play more than the other otters.”
The family’s unexpected donations were especially meaningful to aquarium staff since they arrived during the height of the pandemic, amid plummeting revenues and deep uncertainty for what the future might hold.
Aquarium spokesman Lee Houskeeper said:
“That money bought a lot of anchovies. … It was such a morale boost to everyone here.”
Ryer’s story even inspired a local TV news station to go out to the aquarium and interview him on camera.
“It was really cool and I’ve never done anything like that.”
The boy continued:
“I just like sharing how I learned about Ryer the otter and how much he means to me and how much the aquarium means to me.”
And while Ryer and his mom were only able to spend a couple of days in San Francisco, the city definitely holds a special place in the boy’s heart.
“I really like it because it’s where my otter lives.”