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Little boy who inspired banana split parties dies

July 9, 2012 at 2:46 PM ET

Ryan Roberts, 22 months, passed away on Sunday.
Courtesy Diane Roberts
Ryan Roberts, 22 months, passed away on Sunday.

By Pamela Sitt

Ryan Roberts, the 22-month-old boy who inspired thousands of "banana split parties"  in his honor in recent weeks, died Sunday.

His mother, Diane Roberts, shared on her Facebook page that her son "fought as in typical Ryan fashion - he ignored our words telling him it was OK to go." She wrote:

“At approximately 12:10 while I held Ryan in my arms and daddy held him as well – surrounded by so many who loved him Ryan drew his last breath. He is without oxygen, medicine, tubes, wires, and HURT – he is at peace.”

Courtesy Diane Roberts /
Ryan takes his first bike ride.

The night before, he slept peacefully, Diane told TODAY Moms. "His monitor did not beep the entire night," she said Monday. "He had a fabulous night."

 Diane and her husband, Erik Roberts, decided four weeks ago to issue a Do Not Resuscitate order for their son after being told by doctors that after four surgeries, there was nothing more medical experts could do for him. Ryan was born Sept. 12, 2010, with Down syndrome and a heart defect.

His story went viral last month after Diane requested that parents serve their kids banana splits for dinner to create a special memory in honor of Ryan. A friend created a "Ryan's Banana Split Party" page on Facebook, and more than 76,000 people have responded, posting banana split photos from all over the world.

In recent weeks, Ryan's family made the most of the time he had left, checking off items from a "bucket list" created by his parents. He got a fake tattoo, was issued a "speeding ticket" by visiting Pittsburgh police officers, rode a bike, and shared a (root) beer with his dad to celebrate his 21-month-birthday. Said his mom: "He's a real bad ass."

Last week, the Roberts family spent the Fourth of July together at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where they took Ryan to the roof of the parking garage to watch the fireworks. He fell asleep before they started, Diane said, "but we were all there together." 

Family and friends will gather Friday for a private celebration of Ryan's life in Pittsburgh. Others who wish to celebrate Ryan can participate by writing memorial messages on balloons -- Ryan's family will use red balloons -- and releasing them into the sky at 8:30 p.m. EST.

His parents didn't expect him to go so soon; they thought he had a couple more weeks to live.

"Last Sunday, I was lying out on the grass with him," Diane said. "The next Sunday, he was gone."

Pamela Sitt is a Seattle writer who blogs about motherhood at www.clarasmom.com.

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