After the death of her son, Selena Blankenship is trying to raise money for a memorial half-pipe.
A crowd gathered in the Lynchburg Armory the night of Dec. 1 for the Ryan Massie Memorial Concert, where family and friends of the late Ryan Massie honored his life together.
Red, blue and green lights flashed rapidly as local bands played music ranging from folk to rock to EDM. Though the reason for the event was a somber one, the atmosphere was not one of mourning, but of the celebration of life.
Massie was a 24-year-old musician, skateboarder and Lynchburg local who was fatally struck by a vehicle on Rivermont Avenue on July 13, according to the News & Advance.
Selena Blankenship, Massie’s mother, wanted to do something to honor her son’s memory, and through the involvement of Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, decided to raise money to build a half-pipe at the local skate park in his honor.
“People were trying to change the name of the skate park to the Ryan Massie Skate Park,” Selena Blankenship said. “And I don’t know how many signatures we got to – over 2,000 – but of course that is kind of hard to do. That is a huge thing, so we kind of compromised and said, ‘How about a half-pipe?’”
Family and friends quickly jumped on board to pull together a benefit concert fundraiser. Sam Blankenship, a local drummer and Selena Blankenship’s cousin, called up musicians in the area to see if they would play.
Sam Blankenship said the bands – many of them friends and relatives – were eager to get on board with the event, and a lot of that was due to Massie’s impact on the community.
“He had a massive amount of people in town that thought the world of him,” Sam Blankenship said. “He touched a lot of lives.”
The effects of Massie’s life were evident at the concert. People of all ages and backgrounds were in attendance. A large painting of Massie skateboarding stood on one side of the armory where people wrote messages to Massie and signed their names.
Many of the people who attended the event were also at the LYH Skate Park Benefit Concert in November 2017, where several bands played to raise money to save Lynchburg’s skate park. At the time Massie was the drummer for SIN, whose members volunteered their talents to help raise money.
Massie was passionate about saving the skate park and said it was a vital part of the Lynchburg community.
“Skate boarding is like playing music, it’s like painting, it’s like drawing, it’s like writing, it’s like taking pictures,” Massie said in the 2017 interview. “… It’s an outlet. It’s where we drop any political ideals, any social (differences) – all that’s thrown out the window.”
The skate park, which was successfully turned over to the city in late 2017, will be the home of the half-pipe dedicated to Massie. The skate community has wanted a half-pipe at the park for a while, but Sam Blankenship said having the half-pipe dedicated to Massie brings a special significance to the equipment.
“Any kind of addition to any park is beneficial,” Sam Blankenship said. “But this one just happens to have emotional attachment as well.”
The half-pipe is not the only thing those closest to Massie want to see happen in Lynchburg.
According to WSET, Lynchburg police have responded to more than 122 accidents on Rivermont Avenue since Jan. 1, 2017, including the one that killed Massie. Selena Blankenship said she hopes people will become more aware of how dangerous Rivermont Avenue is to pedestrians, and she would like to see some safety measures put into place.
Most of all, Selena Blankenship said she wishes her son could see the number of people who came out in support of him and his family. Though she personally knew many of the attendees, some were unfamiliar to her. All of them had been impacted by Massie in some way.
“I’m hoping (this night) will show what an incredible person he was,” Selena Blankenship said. “… I’ve been told by many people that I don’t even know who are here tonight, how Ryan saved their life or how Ryan did this and made them feel welcome, and it’s just overwhelming.”
Howard Covey, facilities supervisor with Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, estimated more than 200 people came through the doors for the concert.
When asked how Massie would feel about the event, Sam Blankenship said, “I think he’d be blown away.”
The event raised upward of about $3,000, according to a Facebook post by Selena Blankenship, which brings the total of money raised to about $11,000. The financial goal to build the half-pipe is about $32,000, but Covey, who lives on Rivermont Avenue and was acquainted with Massie, said he thinks the money can be raised.
“This is one event,” Covey, who volunteered to help out at the memorial concert, said. “If we need to do more, we’ll do more.”