Reid Ryan Leading A Family Legacy
Reid Ryan's life changing trip to Zambia

by Minnie Payne

Reid Ryan

From Dec. 26, 2016 to Jan. 5, 2017, 45-year-old Houston Astros President Reid Ryan, and others, struck a homerun with the opening of “Jana’s House” in Zambia, Africa for 12 orphaned girls.

Family Legacy, a Dallas-based 501©3 organization, built Tree of Life Children’s Village in Zambia, where various people and organizations build homes for Zambia orphaned girls in memory of loved ones. Ryan and a great number of his friends are active in Family Legacy.
The story begins when Ryan was living in Austin and serving as CEO and President of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, Inc., owners of Round Rock Express and the Corpus Christi Hooks.

“I was in the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and in a forum that met once a month,” Ryan says. “I had a partner whose daughter died of leukemia and her school, Regent School of Austin, decided to build a house in her name. That was the first time I became aware of Family Legacy.”

He adds that in 2013, his first personal experience with Family Legacy was when some people who were involved with Family Legacy decided to build a baseball field in Zambia to teach young people how to play baseball.
“They (people) came to Round Rock Express and wanted some equipment and people to go to Zambia,” Ryan says. “My brother Reese Ryan, now CEO of the Express, paid for Chris Almendarez, then Senior Vice President and Assistant GM of the Express, and his older son Chase to go, and they had a great time.”

The next year, Almendarez took his wife Jana and sons Chase and Luke with him, and they had a life-changing experience administering to young people. All total, they made three trips as a family.

The Express has sent coaches from their youth baseball camps to Zambia for the past three years to teach baseball to more than 300 children.

“To make a long story short,” Ryan explains, “Jana came down with a brain tumor and died at age 45.”
In the 11 months Jana battled cancer, her story became well known to the baseball world. #TeamJana and #JanaStrong were added to the outfield fences in Dell Diamond and the initials “JA” were inscribed on Express hats. Other major and minor league teams also shared her story.

In a September 2016 statement to UT/Austin’s Hook’Em.com, Almendarez said “Baseball really is a family. It teaches you so much about life. In baseball you’re going to fail seven out of 10 times and get up. I can’t think of anything else in sports that really teaches you how to deal with failure and to take strength from that. My family, and my boys, this is one of the toughest things they’ll ever go through and I don’t really know what we would have done without the baseball family.”

Austin’s The Statesman stated on Jan. 20, 2017 that Almandarez credits Reid Ryan and Jeremy Trojacek with coming up with the idea for Jana’s House. Almendarez met Ryan for lunch in July, and that’s when Ryan sprung the idea of building the house and taking a trip to Zambia for its opening. Almendarez thought that a December completion date was pushing it, but decided to give it a try.

The Express and Ryan Sanders baseball set a goal of raising $250,000 to build and maintain Jana’s House. The Don Sanders family of Houston donated significant funds to the goal. Reese Ryan, younger brother of Reid and CEO of the Express, said “This entire project aligns with our core values as an organization and gives back to a community in a way that would make Jana proud. We miss her every day, but it is comforting to know that her legacy will live on and her love for giving back will continue with this house.”

Reid Ryan and his wife Nicole have three children – son Jackson, 16, daughter Victoria, 15, and daughter Ella, 12. They attend Second Baptist School in Houston, and through their children, they started randomly meeting people who had been on Family Legacy trips.

“Family Legacy is a very tight group in Dallas, Austin, and Houston. It really touched our hearts and confirmed that we needed to make this trip as a family,” Ryan shares. “Since moving to Houston in 2013, we constantly run into people who know about Family Legacy.”

Jana’s House officially opened its doors on New Year’s Day in the Family Legacy Missions Tree of Life Village in Zambia. The newest of 47 homes in the village, the house is named in honor of Jana Almendarez, a lifelong humanitarian and late wife of Round Rock Express President Chris Almendarez.

The 12 chosen orphans who occupy Jana’s House were literally pulled out of the slums.

There are 15 million people in Zambia and because of extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS, half of them are under age 16. Zambia has the seventh highest AIDS infection rate in the world, with the average life expectancy of a Zambian child at the time of birth being 52 years old – compared to 78 in the United States.

An orphan is any child who has lost one or more parents through death or abandonment. A double orphan has lost both parents and a single orphan has lost one parent. Social orphans are abandoned by parents, family members, or caregivers. These children are orphaned by society and left to fend for themselves. Theft, rape, and ritual witchcraft are prevalent. Twenty-four people, including Almendarez, Astros President Reid Ryan, Express CEO Reese Ryan, Express General Manager Tim Jackson, and former University of Texas softball player and USA national team member Cat Osterman, made the trip to Zambia. Reid Ryan said that the trip made him thankful more than anything else for 1. Being born in America. 2. Having parents who were involved in my life. 3. Being raised in a Christian home with high morals and ethics. “This trip with my children and the Express made us a stronger family,” he says. He adds that some of the takeaways for his children are having electricity, clean water, and roads that aren’t riddled with potholes and dangerous – things that we take for granted in the United States.

“I’m so glad that our family had that checkpoint,” Ryan says. “We are so fortunate to be born in a country like America where there are churches, Red Cross, etc. We (Americans) are not perfect, but there are so many people who are willing to help, and these people (Zambians) have no one to help.
“I’m thankful that our children can say that in America you can become anything you want to be and that our fellowman reaches out all the time to help one another. It was powerful for my children to see how very fortunate they are to be in America.”

When asked about the Astros, Ryan says that when he got here in 2013, Jeff Luhnow, General Manager, and Jim Crane, owner and chairman, had already started a re-building program.
“2013 and 2014 were losing years, but we made it to the playoffs in 2015,” he says. “2016 set a winning record when the team finished 84-78. Most experts are predicting us to be a playoff team in 2017.”