UD grad’s legacy lives on

By Katie Ussin WDTN.com

On a sunny September morning in the Miami Valley, lives are changing for the better.

“I’m just really thankful, thank you,” said the Enriquez family in front of a small crowd of cheering people. They have a new home in West Carrollton thanks to Habitat for Humanity and volunteer Tracy Janess has one more reason to smile.

“This was great,” said Tracy. “It’s always nice to do something like this in the month of September.”

It was a sunny September morning 12 years ago that Tracy’s life changed forever. Her little sister, Kristy Ryan, died in the World Trade Center attack on 9/11. Kristy was just 30 years old and the sisters had just celebrated her wedding.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her and I don’t miss what our future would’ve been,” said Tracy.

In her grief, she has found secret smiles, literally. That is the name of the nonprofit Kristy had started in New¬†York City to provide beds to children without. Tracy opened a Dayton chapter and that’s why she and the other board members were in West Carrollton. Secret Smiles provides beds and bedding to all the local Habitat homes.

“The story of 9/11 is not one of tragedy in our minds, it’s one of love and the power of giving,” board member Molly Treese told the crowd at the home dedication ceremony.

“So, every time we donate a bed I feel a part of her with me at all times,” said Tracy about her sister.

They are making a difference; through their fundraising they’ve been able to donate more than 3,500 beds, cribs and bedding to Dayton-area families.

“It’s been a blessing to everyone,” Tracy smiled.

Tracy and Kristy were graduates of the University of Dayton. In the past year, Secret Smiles has partnered with the UD women’s basketball team.

“It says something about UD and the kind of people it produces,” said Coach Jim Jabir.

He says it was a natural fit for the team to volunteer with Secret Smiles.

“It’s an awesome organization and it means a lot to us,” said senior Cassie Sant. “The community comes out and supports us in the games, so we try to give back to them as much as possible.”

Tracy says there really is nothing secret about Secret Smiles. It is about community and helping one another, and seeing her sister’s legacy bring joy to people’s lives.

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