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Ride for Ryan to raise funds for beating victim in minimally conscious state

| Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, 7:24 p.m.
Joe Maletta (left) and John Maletta, both of Franklin Park, stop for a photo during the 2014 Ride for Ryan bike tour on the Cabot Trail in northern Nova Scotia.
These photos show Ryan Diviney before and after the 2009 beating that left him in a minimally conscious state, “which means his reflexes work and he can cough or hiccup, but he has no awareness of his surroundings or ability to communicate,” said his father, Ken Diviney, of Ashburn, Va.

Six years ago, Ryan Diviney was a 20-year-old honors student at West Virginia University who hoped to become a judge or Congressman someday.

But on Nov. 7, 2009, his life changed forever when he was attacked by a group of men in the parking lot of a convenience store near campus.

Diviney was sucker-punched in the face and knocked unconscious. He fell backwards, head first, onto a raised metal grate.

As he lay motionless, another attacker kicked him in the head so hard, “it looked like he was punting a football,” according to witness reports.

Diviney was rushed to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown with a broken jaw, a fractured skull and irreversible damage to his brain stem and frontal lobes.

To help defray Diviney's medical costs, Franklin Park resident John Maletta, 51, began the annual Ride for Ryan bicycle tour. The cost of Diviney's medical care is roughly $2.2 million annually, a significant portion of which insurance does not cover.

Diviney remains in a minimally conscious state, “which means his reflexes work and he can cough or hiccup, but he has no awareness of his surroundings or ability to communicate,” said his father, Ken. He quit his job as a management consultant to provide around-the-clock care for his son in their 1,800-square-foot basement, which was remodeled into a hospital room, complete with a hospital bed, vital monitors, pumps and suction, therapy equipment and exercise tables.

Maletta said it is important that Ryan Diviney remain in people's minds.

“Our No. 1 goal is to keep Ryan relevant, to get his story out and keep him in the news. There are tragic stories every day, but as soon as you read them, they're forgotten. We don't want Ryan to be forgotten,” Maletta said. “Our second goal is to help provide good care for Ryan and help his family raise money for the massive medical bills.”

Maletta's friendship with Ken Diviney, 51, who now lives in Ashburn, Va., goes back to 1982, when they were roommates at Clarion State College, now Clarion University.

This year's Ride for Ryan will be held from Sept. 4 to 8 and will take Maletta, his brother and five friends on a 335-mile journey along the historic C&O Canal Towpath Trail, which runs along the Potomac River from Washington to Cumberland, Md., and the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail, which runs through the mountains from Cumberland to Pittsburgh.

“We typically go 70 to 80 miles a day,” said Maletta, an avid adventure cyclist.

Along the trail, they will pass through several key Civil War towns and battlefields.

“It's a pretty breath-taking ride, really,” Maletta said.

So far, they have secured about $8,000 in donations for this year's ride; they hope to reach $15,000.

“One hundred percent of the money donated goes to pay for Ryan's medical expenses,” Maletta said.

In previous Ride For Ryan tours, Maletta has led participants along the Erie Canal Trail in upstate New York; the Pacific Coast Highway in California; and the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, where they encountered coyotes and moose.

To date, he has raised a total of about $70,000.

“I used to think John was a great guy, but I was misrepresenting him. He's not great, he's amazing. What he and the people in Pittsburgh are doing for us really helps,” Ken Diviney said.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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