After being nominated as a Young Wonder in 2006, Ryan was once again featured on CNN Heroes in December 2018 for their ‘Young Wonders: Where Are They Now’ segment, which caught up with Ryan and Ryan’s Well Foundation to see how they have grown together over the past 11 years.


The 2017-18 fiscal year saw Ryan’s Well and our partners undertake the most work over the course of one year than at any other time in the Foundation’s history. We saw the completion of 111 water projects in Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Haiti, and organized Community Water Committees and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) training with each project. We were only able to do this amount of work because of the incredible financial support we received throughout the course of the year.

This is a special year for us as we celebrate 20 years of Ryan being on this path. We have stayed focused on WASH, Motivation, and Education since the very beginning. We have chosen to stick to our strengths, and not stray from our mission simply to attract funds. At the age of six, Ryan was on a mission – one that has increased in intensity as time has passed. Over 925,000 people now have access to potable water as a result of people around the world who have walked step-by-step alongside Ryan since 1998.

celebrating 20 years - photos of ryan


It’s hard to believe that twenty years have already come and gone since a shy 6-year-old boy believed in his dream so much that he ended up changing the world. Looking back on twenty years of moments that can never be forgotten, it is difficult to choose just one to reminisce about. It’s important to remember that even though we are celebrating twenty years of hard work, we still have so much to do. Let’s all take a minute to laugh and share stories, and then let’s roll up our sleeves and start working on the next twenty years.

Let us tell you a story about a young boy who caught the attention of a media mogul.

Sixteen years ago, the Oprah Winfrey Show was contemplating having a young guest on their show, a Canadian boy named Ryan who was doing fund raisers for clean water wells.

He didn’t speak properly, he had a stutter, was far younger then a typical guest would be and on top of all of that, he refused to be on the show on a Tuesday because of a volunteer commitment. They must have noticed how passionate he was and saw the potential of change by sharing his story.

Now, all these years later the Ryan’s Well dream and fund raisers are reaching new heights. Thanks to Oprah, millions of people heard and became apart of the unbelievable journey.

Thank you, Oprah, for helping give this story a voice!


ryan's grade 1 class

So many of us have had great teachers – those that have inspired and encouraged us, and changed our lives for the better. Their influence on us extends beyond the classroom and into our community, enriching the world.

One day in January 1998, Ryan was sitting in his Grade One classroom. His teacher, Mrs. Prest, explained that people were sick and some were even dying because they didn’t have clean water. She told her students that some people walked for hours in Africa and sometimes it was just to get dirty water.

“All I had to do was take 10 steps from my classroom to get to the drinking fountain and I had clean water. Before that day in school, I figured everyone lived like me. When I found out this wasn’t the case, I decided I had to do something about it.” Ryan Hreljac

So, Ryan went home and begged his mom and dad to help. After a few days, they told him he could do extra chores to earn the $70 he thought would build a well. Ryan thought that’s all it would take to solve the world’s water problem. He worked for four months to earn his first $70. Then Ryan learned that it was actually going to cost $2,000 to build a well in a place like Uganda. He also learned that the problem was way bigger than I realized.

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world
Malala Yousafzai

ryan and first grade teacher mrs prest


Six year old Ryan Hreljac sat in shock as he listened to his Grade 1 teacher, Nancy Prest, at Holy Cross Catholic School in Kemptville, Ont. Launching a school-wide campaign, she spoke that day of the sad plight of children living in impoverished, disease-stricken Africa, where there was little access to medicine, food or clean water. Ryan, a sensitive child with blond hair and blue eyes, winced when he heard that hundreds of thousands of African children die each year just from drinking contaminated water. by Kathy Cook, Reader’s Digest

In 2001, Ryan’s story made its way to 16 countries thanks to a feature story in Reader’s Digest. To this day, that story written by Kathy Cook, is referenced by many of you in your outreach. We are beyond thankful for the platform  that Reader’s Digest gave Ryan to share his story, and to empower people to take positive actions.


Back in 2002, Ryan had the honour of attending the World Summit in Johannesburg South Africa. Even though Ryan was young he was able to speak on panels, give presentations and met with world leader speaking about his dream about clean water for the world. Ryan may have been young but his unique experience and perspective help forge relationships to help strengthen Ryan’s Well for the years to come!
ryan at the waterdome

rwf logo xs