Ailing student Ryan Wood, at center of social movement, passes away

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CLEMMONS, N.C. -- Ryan Wood -- a 16-year-old whose battle with cancer inspired his friends to ignite an international movement on social media -- has died.

Wood, who was a sophomore and J.V. football player at West Forsyth High School, was diagnosed last spring with Burkitt Lymphoma, an aggressive cancer of the lymphatic system.

Wood's father told FOX8 that his son was with his family when passed away peacefully at 12:25 a.m.  

His father said, "The support and love shown was amazing.  I can't put to words what it meant for us and Ryan.  That is an amazing bunch of kids and we appreciate what they've done." 

He added his son "was ready -- he was saved and knew where he was going."

School officials made the announcement to students Thursday morning.

"I think we lost a lot but then again we gained a lot," said Brett Saunders, a friend of Wood's.  "Our community came together and I think that is what God wanted.  We were all praying for a miracle, but the miracle was the community coming together." 

Grief counselors have been made available to students at West Forsyth, where classmates and faculty joined in a moment of silence following the announcement of Wood's passing. 

Last week, doctors told Wood his cancer had spread.  They estimated he had only a few weeks to live.

Upon hearing the news, Wood's friends and classmates took his story and their prayers to Twitter with the hashtags "prayforryan" and "pray4ryan."  Close friends like Jake Still said they had been inspired by Wood each day since his diagnosis.

“He is always just a good, kind guy.  I’ve never seen him mad,” Still said.

As the movement spread, Wood and his supporters began receiving messages of encouragement from strangers across North Carolina, other states and even other countries.

“I’ve had people tell me like, 'I have never prayed before but I’m praying for Ryan,'" Still said.

Wood's courage even grabbed the attention of NBA star and Forsyth County native Chris Paul.  The All-Star L.A. Clippers point guard along with the Make-A-Wish Foundation had planned to send Wood and his family to Key West, Fla. in the coming days.

On Tuesday night, West Forsyth met its rival basketball team at Davie County High School where supporters wore green in honor of Wood's battle.

A public visitation will be held before Wood's funeral at River Oaks Community Church in Clemmons beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.  The funeral service is set for 2 p.m. 


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