By John Toole
---- — WINDHAM — A local student’s tribute to cancer survivors like his mother, which was embraced by schoolmates after some had ridiculed it, has led him to national TV and praise from NFL coach Pete Carroll.
Ryan Marotta, 12, appeared on “The Queen Latifah Show,” which aired this week.
Ryan’s decision to wear pink sneakers to school earlier this month after watching NFL players do the same caused some to make fun of him in the school lunch line, his mother, Kimberly, said.
But then fellow students at Windham Middle School rallied around Ryan, putting on pink of their own to show solidarity with him.
When word reached Queen Latifah, she extended an invitation for Ryan to appear on her show.
“We flew out last Wednesday, and it was recorded Thursday in Los Angeles,” Ryan’s mother said.
A highlight came in a video greeting to Ryan from Pete Carroll, coach of Ryan’s favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks.
“Hey, I heard about your story, about you taking a stand and wearing the same colors that we wear in our football games during breast cancer month here in the NFL,” Carroll told a surprised Ryan.
“Really proud of you,” Carroll told Ryan.
“Our football team is excited about the fact that you took a stand, you showed the courage to do that, and you really did a good thing,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks and the NFL sent Ryan a gift package that included a pink football shoe, pink wristbands and Seahawks souvenirs.
Queen Latifah pressed a finger to a smiling Ryan’s neck to check his pulse after Carroll’s message.
“He’s excited,” she said.
The whole experience left Ryan excited.
“It was crazy, I was so excited,” he said.
Nothing was better than hearing from the coach.
“It was awesome and amazing he was talking to me,” Ryan said.
Ryan was accompanied on the show by his mother and his older brother, Andrew.
Andrew, 15, a student at Central Catholic High in Lawrence, stuck up for his little brother on social media, encouraging Ryan’s schoolmates to wear pink, too.
Ryan estimates a couple of hundred students showed up to school wearing pink.
“It was awesome seeing all that pink,” he said.
“That really was a positive thing, all the students supporting him,” Kim Marotta said.
“The teachers didn’t even know,” she said.
Ryan, a seventh-grader, is an all-star quarterback with the Windham Wolveries youth football team.
He was just five when his mother, since recovered, suffered with cancer.
“This was quite a tribute to me that he made,” Kimberly Marotta said.
“I adore my son,” she said. “I give him a lot of credit.”
Ryan said he wanted to show support for his mother, other cancer survivors and those suffering from cancer today.
Ryan’s learned a lesson from all this.
“Don’t be afraid to support something you know is good,” he said.