The Ryan Wells Foundation was created to honor the memory of a young man who had a passion for education. Initially focused on awarding scholarships to students, the foundation quickly grew and recognized the need to support education more broadly, specifically in the culinary arts. The foundation’s efforts began in 2007 with a $90,000 donation to Tarpon Spring High School to build the Ryan Wells teaching kitchen. Since then, the foundation has expanded to include five other schools and programs, benefiting over 800 students each year.
The Ryan Wells Foundation: Making the World a Better Place
The Ryan Wells Foundation has distributed over $300,000 to-date, with annual donations ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 per school. These funds are used to purchase essential educational materials, including food, equipment, and basic kitchen supplies, and enable students to participate in local, state, and national competitions. For many students, these competitions represent a unique opportunity to showcase their skills and compete against their peers from across the country.
The foundation’s impact goes beyond financial contributions, as they actively seek out opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom by volunteering at special events throughout the community. This provides students with valuable real-world experience and helps instill a sense of philanthropy and community involvement.
Cooking for a Cause
One of the foundation’s programs, Cooking for a Cause, takes place in the classrooms of Dixie Hollins, Northeast, Osceola, and Tarpon High schools, as well as the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Pinellas Technical College campuses. This program enriches the culinary arts curriculum being taught by incorporating concepts such as nutrition, menu planning, preparation, storage, and service of food for the masses, as well as the importance of philanthropy. The students then apply their knowledge in the kitchen and prepare meals on a rotating basis during the school year for Homeless Empowerment Program (HEP), a homeless shelter in Pinellas County serving 400+ men, women, and children from infancy to 62+ years.
Cooking for a Cause addresses a number of important needs in the community, including the need to educate students with curriculum and hands-on application in preparation for post-secondary education and careers in the field, the need to educate students about homelessness in the community, the need to educate students about philanthropy, and the need for funding sources for food and equipment. Within the shelter, the project addresses the need to feed its homeless population, the need to prepare the homeless to find permanent housing, therefore reducing the number of homeless in the county, and the need for funding sources for food.
Evening with the Chefs
In addition to their ongoing efforts to support culinary education and philanthropy, the Ryan Wells Foundation hosts an annual fundraiser called “Evening with the Chefs”. The event brings together some of the top chefs in the Tampa Bay area, including our executive chef Lee Aquino, to showcase their culinary skills and support the foundation’s mission. Attendees can enjoy a night of delicious food, drinks, and entertainment while also contributing to a great cause.
The event has become a staple in the local community and continues to grow each year, raising thousands of dollars for the foundation’s programs and initiatives. Through “Evening with the Chefs” and other fundraising efforts, the Ryan Wells Foundation is able to continue its important work, supporting the education and professional development of aspiring chefs and culinary professionals, while also making a positive impact on the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness. Learn more about contributing to this important fundraiser on May 12th by clicking here.