From the Bench: After Making a Lifetime of Impact on Youth, Making a Lifetime Memorial for Ryan Lantz

By Jeff Toquinto on April 14, 2024 from Sports Blog via

During a few winter days this school year, there was a give-and-take exchange in one of the classrooms at Liberty High School during the final block. Not that there was anything unusual about this particular teacher and his students going back and forth making learning fun, but a couple of days were just a bit different.
It was in the Office Procedures class. The teacher was Ryan Lantz, and he was, well, combining his roles as Mr. Lantz and Coach Lantz.
On two occasions this year, Lantz would be coaching later that evening as an assistant for Robert C. Byrd High School’s boys’ basketball team. In his classroom were several players for Liberty’s team.
“He would joke with them and ask them about what strategy they were going to use,” said Rachel Dodd, whose son Jenson was in the class and a Mountaineer basketball player. “The kids enjoyed it because they knew it was for fun. He made going to class enjoyable for the kids, and he was the same way as a coach.”
Ryan Lantz, as most know, passed away tragically due to an accident on the school campus where he impacted thousands of lives. It has not yet been quite two months since his passing, but the stories, the memories, still flow freely because of situations like the one mentioned above. They were the norm, not the exception.
It is a tribute to the man, the teacher, the coach, the father, the husband, the brother, the youth pastor, and so much more. Rachel Dodd is now doing her part to help make sure the memories do not fade. A big part of what she is doing right now (which we’ll get to shortly) is related to Ryan Lantz being not just a teacher for her son, but a coach in his early high school basketball days and an assistant coach for all four years in football.
“It was nice to know and trust someone that has your child during school and as a coach. You just didn’t have to worry about that with Ryan being there,” she said. “I couldn’t have been happier that he was their coach.
“What I never knew, was the extent on how much he impacted Jenson’s life and so many others until after he passed,” she continued. “Seeing how my son and his friends reacted when it happened you could tell. Jenson made a comment on his Facebook page about Ryan after he passed, and it broke me. He did so much for so many, and you don’t want people to ever forget that.”
Another reason for her involvement, along with working with Liberty teacher and Bridgeport resident Maria Morrison and football Coach A.J. Harman, goes back to before her son ever drew a breath.
“He graduated with (my husband) Jason at Liberty. He was a year younger than me, and we also went to Gore Junior High together,” said Rachel. “Maybe it was because I was older, but I remember him being a quiet guy in school. He was a good guy who you never heard anything about, but everyone remembered him.”
That lengthy intro leads us to the key purpose of this blog. Rachel Dodd, Maria Morrison, and A.J. Harman – and likely others – are doing a fundraiser right now in memory of Lantz. They are spearheading the effort after Rachel’s son Jenson wanted to do something to honor his coach, his teacher, his friend. Thus, the name “Jenson’s Fundraiser for Coach Lantz.”
The goal of those involved is two-fold. First, they hope to raise enough funds to put up a plaque, or some type of memorial, which will be a permanent tribute to Lantz at Liberty High School or whatever manifestation it takes in the future.
Secondly, they hope to raise additional funds to donate dollars to Judson Baptist Church Camp in Upshur County. It was here where Lantz learned many of his values that shaped his life. It is where, as an adult, he helped shape the lives of others by ministering to youth.
How you can help is easy. Dodd is involved with Scentsy, a company many are familiar with already. The company is one of the biggest in the world in providing home and personal fragrance items. Items are being sold from Scentsy that will see the profits go toward the fundraising effort.
There is a dedicated page to Ryan’s fundraiser that can be found HERE. And please note that 100 percent of the proceeds are going to the plaque, the camp, or both, or even a private donation to the family if enough funds are raised. There is also a Facebook page set up that will show daily items. Although private, you can click HERE, and message Rachel and you will be able to get aboard.
And since many know Morrison and Coach Harman, and I will personally vouch for Rachel Dodd and her family as some of the best people out there, you can feel good the acquisition of items will provide you with a quality product and funds raised from it will assist a wonderful cause. I should also note, Rachel’s goodness has included more than one other fundraiser for worthy causes where 100 percent of the funds raised are donated.
“It just seems like the right thing to do. I know I’m not the only parent, and so many of us appreciate what he did for our children. I think back to the little things like Jenson telling us about Ryan having snacks for them in last block or teaching the girls in his class how they could help out by learning to tie a tie,” said Rachel. “He was a positive reinforcement, and you don’t see enough of that today anywhere. He also preached to them without preaching simply by how he lived and his actions. I think all of us want to make sure he’s remembered.”
Now you can help make sure that is the case. The fundraiser will go through at least to the end of April, perhaps longer. If you can make a purchase, please do.
“I just wanted to do something since he was so good to our family, so good to so many others, and he led a Godly life,” said Rachel. “He was such a great example for all the kids.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Ryan Lantz in the background as Jenson Dodd lines up during a Liberty football practice, and in the second photo Lantz relaxes at a football carwash fundraiser. In the third photo, a file shot by Ben Queen Photography from 2021, Lantz is shown with Coach AJ Harman, middle, and Dodd. Bottom photo is of two individuals assisting with the plaque memorial - Liberty teacher Maria Morrison and fellow educator AJ Harman.

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