By Angela Morefield
The town of Whiteland is grieving the loss of a beloved high school sophomore and football player.
Ryan David Latham, son of Stephen and Carol Latham, was only 15 years old when he passed away from Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) unexpectedly in his sleep Aug. 24.
Ryan, nicknamed “RyGuy,” and “Big Sugar,” was all about life, according to his parents. They said his eyes were filled with wonder and joy, and his heart was full of love for his family; that may have been because somehow, he knew his life would be short.
The Lathams held a memorial four days later. The Whiteland High School football field filled with nearly 1,000 of Ryan’s friends and family. The colors orange and blue filled the seats in memory of his love for football and his team. Ryan was a lineman at Whiteland High School, and he could not wait to be on that field, according to Carol. “(During) his fourth-grade football season, his coaches Chris Emberton, Brent Denham and Jesse Denham penned him with the nickname, ‘Big Sugar,’” she said. “They gave him so much confidence in himself and turned him from a football player to a beast on the field.”
Ryan’s favorite thing to do besides sports was to play video games, mostly Overwatch and the Destiny series. He described himself as a gamer. His favorite cartoon movie was Finding Nemo, and like his father, Ryan had a great love for superheroes. And food.
“He loved all the food except mushrooms and blueberries. He was an equal opportunity diner. But he loved pistachios, beef jerky, for snacks.” Carol said. “He loved all music and was unashamed of his love for Katy Perry songs.”
Stephen remembered that just nights before Ryan’s passing, they sat together for almost two hours at Ryan’s his little brother’s (Renny) football practice, just talking. Some about football, some about life. “It’s the last solid conversation I had with him,” Stephen Latham said. “I’ll always hold on to that.”
Ryan was funny, kind, gentle and always happy, according to Carol. “One of my favorite things was when we went on vacation this year; he bought a snorkel mask. He was absolutely amazed by it and was so excited every time he went underwater.” she said. “Ryan was always amazed and excited by the little things. I wish we could all stay that way, with that childlike mindset and light in our eyes.”
Niki Garod, a close friend of the Lathams, organized a GoFundMe account, Ryan Latham Memorial Fund. The Latham family has started a scholarship fund in Ryan’s name. Any money left after funeral expenses will go toward the scholarship fund. Ryan would want nothing more than to help another student reach their dreams, according to his parents.