Join the Rise Community:


Our Story

Pam Woodruff sits down for a conversation with Rise President Lynn Noren

AS ALL YOUNG PARENTS do, John and Pam Woodruff had hopes and dreams for their firstborn son, Ryan. But their original plans took a sharp turn when at nine months old, doctors diagnosed Ryan with cerebral palsy, a hearing disorder, and likely, an intellectual disability. They advised the Woodruffs to put Ryan in an institution. 

“But no one could know what his potential really would be at that young age,” said Pam. “Instead, we took Ryan home and began educating ourselves. And it’s been quite a journey ever since -- he’s had such a tremendously positive impact on the whole family!”    

Through the years, the Woodruffs engaged the support of many professionals, including occupational, physical, and communication therapists, social workers, doctors, and special educators to get Ryan the services he needed to live his life the way he wanted.    

Pam recalls that it seemed that most of the reports from Ryan’s early evaluations and exams had notations such as, “can’t do…”; “won’t work…”; “shouldn’t…” 

“Ryan would read the reports and say, ‘But that’s not me.’ He never thought of his deafness as a disability and knew he could do whatever he put his mind to. Ryan became his own best advocate.”

Ryan came to Rise in 2004 for employment services through the Day Training and Habilitation Sensory Support Unit.  After working for several years with a work team at HOM Furniture in Coon Rapids assembling dining room chairs for the display floor and home deliveries, Ryan felt he was ready for a competitive job.        

A special state-funded placement program grant for people who are deaf enabled Rise to provide Ryan with customized job placement and support services.

"Rise came in and saved the day," said Pam. "Working at HOM Furniture was a great stepping stone for Ryan and gave him the self-confidence he needed to take it to the next step." 

Today, at age 33, Ryan has far exceeded every dream his parents originally had for him. He has a great job with FedEx as a package sorter and was honored at the Celebrate Rise Fundraising Gala last October as a Rise’ing Star. Ryan got married in June 2015, and he and his wife, Pa (who has a great job with the State of Minnesota), live in a condo in West St. Paul. They attend the Deaf Life Church and are building a nice life together.

Pam said she was happy to be asked to serve on a statewide committee which annually reviews the grantees’ progress to ensure the funding is being spent effectively.         “After all these years of benefitting from community resources, I am glad to have the opportunity to give back in this way,” she added. 

“Through Rise’s person-centered approach to services, we direct our resources to providewhat each person wants and needs to live they life they want.” said Rise President Lynn Noren. “Ryan’s family is an important part of the planning team. Their input is critical to his success.”

“Rise has the networks and the resources to help Ryan find his place in the world,” Pam added. “Rise helped launch him into the ‘real world’ with a job he loves and is proud of.

“Ryan has surprised and amazed us over and over and over.He has an internal drive and vision for himself that has far surpassed our expectations. We are so proud.” 

The article appears in the March 2016 issue of the Rise Reporter.