Encouragement · healing-over-pain

“This incident won’t stop me from being a firefighter”

  A South Dakota newspaper tells the story of firefighter Austin Whitney, 23, who is in the long and painful process of recovering from second and third burns over his body after the Coal Canyon wildfire.
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Austin was trapped in the massive fire along with four fellow firefighters.
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“What’s helping his recovery most,” his father said, “is the focused power of his mind.

His spirits are up and over the moon! Five days into his recovery Austin told me that this incident won’t stop him from being a firefighter. ”

“It was very hard for the family to wrap their hearts around the awful news of their son’s burning.

“A lot of emotions were streaming through my head at the time,” Robert said.

“We didn’t know how bad it was or what was going on, and it turned everything topsy- turvy. Everyone was frantic.”

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Austin is following in the firefighting footsteps of his father, grandfather, aunts, and uncles.

His first season was with the “South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division,” a state firefighting agency.

But Austin had started fighting fires when he turned 18, joining the “Pringle Volunteer Fire Department”–the same department as his father and grandfather.

Then, he joined the “Cascade Volunteer Fire Department” the following year, and is co-captain now.

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“His infusion of courage is growing in so many of us,” said Austin’s father.

“I am grateful that our lives would converge this way. What a wonderful world!”

(Thank you to Larry Kramer for his contribution to this blog).

dawn

Encouragement · Hope · Relationship

The story of Ryan Shines

The Accident

It’s Saturday, October 13, 2001, roughly 3:00 in the pm, exactly 32 days after September 11; the horror of all horrors, my deepest rung of hell to-date. We’re on highway 83, along the Mexican border, in Texas, driving 70 miles an hour.

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Out of nowhere, I hear a loud Bang!

Backfire? Bomb? My head exploding?

I notice Ron out of the corner of my eye.

He is tightening his grip on the steering wheel, trying to steer.

He loses control of the wheel. We are minus the tread on our rear tire.

Impossible!

There is no way to handle the crisis we’re in, our family’s SUV has started to skid.

Then it overturns.

We are rolling.

The car flips three or four times. We finally slide to a stop on the other side of the overpass.

That’s when our car burst into flames!

And my family and I are trapped inside. IMG_5046

We rescued everyone but Ryan.He died in the hellish fire.

The Recovery

We experienced all the pain there is, physically and emotionally. Light couldn’t crowbar its way into the dark night of the soul.

Did I tell you that we had two more little boys–Trenton and Colton. They were, along with Tyler, at the center of our recovery. 

Moving to Alabama

We were in a fishbowl in South Texas. Most every day someone would stare, or ask about the accident.

We were known around town as the “sad family.” Alabama felt like the right place to keep moving forward.

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Trenton, Colton, Tyler and Chloe

We enjoyed life on Lake Martin, homeschooling the boys for 5 years. It has been our refuge and I have done my most creative work there. It is our home and a quiet place to remember Ryan.

The boys are in school in Birmingham now, it’s where we have found community. It is also the place where we connect with pediatric burn survivors and firefighters.

My Blog

I’ve been through hell and back and I’ve wondered if there is a way I can offer what I’ve learned over these 16 years. I began writing down my feelings, and thoughts.

Suddenly I realized that I had all the makings of a blog. I publish my blog every week on Thursday.

It provides a way to help myself as I map my journey; but more than that, it gives me the opportunity to help others in their struggles.

Our Epic Trip

One of our sons suggested that we take a long learning vacation.

Everybody agreed. We spent almost every evening dreaming and talking about where and when. We decided to take a trip around the world.

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Me, Tyler, Ron, Colton and Trenton in France

I had been home-schooling the boys anyway, and this would be an epic field trip. We made a list of the countries each of us wanted to visit, and everyone prepared reports on their countries.

China Suzhou?
Hirn family in China

The trip was beautiful and challenging. We were all together. We were laminated.

The Camping Connection

We knew we wanted to establish a Pediatric Burn Camp to honor Ryan, and while we were exploring our options we discovered that firefighters created and ran burn camps around the country.

They invested heart and soul into the camps and the children! That grew into a partnership between our burn foundation (RyanShines) and firefighters.

Firefighters

We needed chaperones for our first fishing event (“Catching Courage”).

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Guess who stepped into the spotlight?

FIREFIGHTERS!

They didn’t need a lot of instruction.

They are “the naturals.”

Their way with our burn kids is enveloped in respect and genuine friendship.

Picture it: two heroes sitting together ‘sharing with understanding.’

 

RyanShines Burn Foundation

I love the sound of these two words that are hooked together like a train: RyanShines!

It is named for Ryan, of course.

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“Ryan Shines” mosaic in Children’s Pavilion of IMAS, McAllen, TX

But it comes from a work of art at the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen, TX.

It is a twenty-foot mosaic and the designer dedicated it to Ryan.

The mosaic is called “Ryan Shines.”

Out of that holy name came every good Gift that shines on the children and firefighters.

Our mission is that “no burned child be left behind, and no firefighter will be forgotten.”

Islamorada

Every year we take pediatric burn survivors and firefighters to Islamorada in the Florida keys.

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Catching Courage Keys Edition

The first year we took 7 firefighters and 6 burn survivors. This year, our 3rd, we are taking 40 firefighters and 10 burn survivors, from 6 states.

Peer Support Team for Firefighters

We realized that our firefighters are first to a fire. They rescue children, adults, and pets.

But who rescues the firefighters? Who stands beside them? Firefighters undergo injuries, grief, risk, fear, and death. Alabama is #2 in suicides over work-related deaths in the United States.

Ryan Shines is a proud partner in our state’s first Alabama Firefighter Peer Support team(ALFFPS). We are talking about ‘healing by listening,’ and putting them together with their peer-brothers who understand what really goes on in the body, soul, and life of a firefighter. 

“Catching Courage” Events

These outdoor events consist of fishing, hunting,  kayaking, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, and any team-building with pediatric burn survivors and firefighters.IMG_7054

This year we hosted our first Catching Courage Family Camp.

They are all designed to create healing, developing bonds between the participants, and building lasting relationships. 

Our 5-year Plan

The future is as unlimited as the horizon. Here’s what we see ahead…

  • Organizing 4 Catching Courage events per year in each of the 50 states.
  •  Taking a team of 4 firefighters from each state, each year to our Catching Courage event in the Keys.
  • Creating a statewide Firefighter Peer Support Team in every state that needs one. 
  • Growing burn children into good, honest, productive and confident citizens.

 

Thank you for listening, my dear friends.

dawn

Adventure with Engagement AWE · healing-over-pain · Hope · wounded healer

Every ending is a new beginning

( First, I’ve gotta tell you that I’m finding so much joy in my Journey with you).

2020

However we have failed ourselves and those we care about; wherever our fears have knocked us to our knees; whatever searing loss has tempted us to give up on our dreams, our story doesn’t end there! 

It’s time to leave 2019 and move into the New Year.

It’s time to leave what’s past and embrace what’s possible.open door

Every ending brings a new beginning. 

As we are making our way into our new beginning, we are constructing a world where people make room for each other, provide for each other, and take care of each other.

A world where people refuse to judge a child by her scars.

This is our 20/20 vision at Ryan Shines, even if that’s not the world we live in.

We live in a world where terrible things happen, and not just to other people.

We have had our share of tragic accidents, and dreaded diagnoses.

The question is: “how will we respond when these things happen to us?”

By facing what’s terrible in our lives and our world, we create the possibility that something beautiful will emerge in its wake.

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Catching Courage Keys Edition

What’s terrible doesn’t have the final word.

As long as we are alive, something always happens next. And if we work for it, ‘the something that happens next’ can be beautiful.

Why don’t you join us?

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It’s never too late to embrace our Vision.

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @ryanshinesburnfoundation)

Faith · Family · Hope

“To face unafraid the plans that we’ve made”

couple snowSleighbells ring, are you listening?

In the lane, snow is glistening:

A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight 

walking in a winter wonderland.

Later on, we’ll conspire, 

as we dream by the fire:

To face unafraid 

the plans that we’ve made, 

walking in a winter wonderland.

It’s a strange moment in the Christmas jingle when they sit by the fire in winter and dream of facing the future without fear.

We sit together this week, basking in the soft glow of candlelight, our hearts warmed by old, old stories and familiar faces.

3 kings

It’s easy to think that the Christmas Season is mostly about the size and temperature of the stable, the wisdom of the three kings, about Mary’s hope, the innkeeper’s hospitality, the songs of angels, and the birth of the child.

The main characters of the Story wrestle with a lot of fear, even terror.

It’s true about every one of us.

We read about Mary’s anxiety, Joseph’s fear of marriage, the shepherds’ fright over the angel-choir, King Herod’s anger, the wise men’s terror of King Herod’s wrath.

Every scene in the Story moves between fascination and fear, between terror and wonder.

There is no emotion in this Story that we haven’t felt.

The question posed to each character, and to each of us is this: “will we, at this crucial moment in our lives, be frozen in our fear, or lured on by the “Wonder of the star?”

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Dawn, Lovely & Kaleigh

We at RyanShines are committed to riding the emotional roller-coaster with our dear burn survivors and firefighters.

We stand by our purpose  that “no burn child will be left behind and no Firefighter is forgotten.”

Happy Holidays to everyone, from Ron, Dawn, Tyler, Trenton, Colton & (angel Ryan) Hirn

dawn

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Ryan & Tyler 2000
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Trenton, Colton, Tyler & Chloe  ’10

 

 

Faith · Family · healing-over-pain · Hope · Motherhood

“Girl, you’ve gotta carry that weight a long time!”

This is the story of a mother and son.

It is a hard-luck love story between Monica and her ten-year-old, Lucas.

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Lucas

The whole family was gathered around the table for Christmas dinner.

Each person had their own pan over a fondue burner.

What happened was the fuel was running low, so Lucas’ grandmother got up to go into the kitchen to refill the gas.

When she removed the lid to pour more fuel into the pan, a flame shot across and consumed Lucas from his face down to his belly button.

“I was still at the table,” Monica said, “and had no idea that Lucas was burning.

The kitchen caught fire and when I turned, all I could see was my little boy on fire.

I froze.

His dad ripped his clothes off, put out the fire, carried Lucas to the car, and we raced to the hospital.

I was amazingly calm on the outside but my heart was breaking.”

Like always, Christmas is here again, and Monica has felt it slithering toward her since September.

Talk about carrying so much weight for such a long time!

Every year is always heavy.

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It breaks the most resilient spirit.

 

 

Lucas has had nine surgeries, with more to come.

Monica was in there for the first one and it was unbearable.

Whenever Lucas is in the hospital he does the same thing.

He shines a light of reassurance to mom and lets her know he’s “doing well.”

He continually gives her the gift of his own strength so she won’t be afraid.

In the past two months, Monica has found the courage to say to herself: “THIS IS HARD!”

But she knew that things have been so hard for Lucas, that she didn’t deserve to admit that things were hard for her, too.

Her vulnerability is unfolding, and she has discovered a deeper love than she’s ever known.

For Lucas.Bs-Lucas2

Lucas is fourteen now and in high school.

His faith in God is contagious.

He is so bright in his classes.

He’s on the wrestling team.

Last week he won Gold in the Elite division.

He removes his shirt bearing the scars on his chest, and he is not the least bit self-conscious.

They are his medals, too.

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Mom & son(Monica & Lucas)

 

dawn

Encouragement · Faith · healing-over-pain · wounded healer

Rising from the ashes

“My name is Lisa Beckwith. I was burned On November 9, 2017.

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Lisa

It was a beautiful fall evening and my family and I were outside enjoying a nice fire in our fire pit.

After a while, my husband and teenage daughter and son went in for the night.

I loved the quiet privacy.

When I decided to turn-in for the night, I stood up out of my chair and stepped on the left corner of my robe and fell into the fire pit.

My chin hit the steel ring and my hands broke my fall in the hot coals.

With unexpected strength, I pushed myself out of the pit.

I ran to the bathroom, splashed cold water over my face and grabbed a towel.

I honestly didn’t think that I had been badly burned. When I looked in the mirror, I was horrified.

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My son and daughter heard the commotion and ran into the bathroom to see what was going on.

They were horrified, too, seeing skin hanging from my face and hands.

They called my husband, who was already asleep.

He came running and, in minutes, had me bandaged and on our way to the hospital.

Upon arriving, the hospital determined I needed to be at a facility that was highly skilled at treating burn victims.

So I was admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and into the Burn Center.

 

I was burned badly on the right side of my face and both hands.bs-lisa 2

A good amount of hair was burned as well.

Ironically, the robe I was wearing that night ended-up saving the rest of my body.

They skin-grafted both hands.

Then, in a few months, I had a second graft surgery on my left hand.

I have some limitations to what I can do with my hands.

I always will, but I am grateful the limitations are minimal.

My scars are deep, but wearing compression gloves helps me do everyday tasks.

Overall, my healing was miraculous.

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What I didn’t expect was the strength it takes to heal emotionally.

But I have a strong faith and that’s the main reason why I’m making such progress in my healing process.

I certainly have my share of bad days.

I allow myself to have them, but I refuse to focus on them.

I encourage people to find the good that is in everything. 

And, trust me, I mean EVERYTHING.”

dawn

healing-over-pain · Relationship

E Pluribus Unum (Out of the Many, One”)

This is the Tenth Anniversary of the shooting death of Pelham Police Officer Philip Davis.

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They tell me that there is one agency that understands the pain and that is the “Pelham Police Department.”

And we are grateful for our police officers and the ways they protect and serve our communities.

But there is more to this Anniversary Day than the tragic death of Officer Davis on I-65.

The call that came in over the wire was two dreaded words: “OFFICER DOWN!”

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The Pelham Fire Department also heard the call, and jumped in their truck and sped to the scene.

With them was Wes Green, a firefighter who had 15+years experience as a paramedic.   

The Firefighters arrived first at the scene and saw Officer Davis stretched out across the shoulder of the Interstate, bleeding profusely.

Officer Green discovered the entry point of the bullet that killed Officer Davis.

A trucker pulled over and knelt down to pray.

The Pelham firefighters stayed by Officer Davis until police cars began to gather.

When the police arrived, both departments began to work together as One.

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So, the other side of this Day of Remembering is the inspiration shown by the firefighters and the police officers as they worked together. 

The old motto of America adopted by the Founding Fathers is E Pluribus Unum.

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We honor this band of brothers, and what happened ten years ago in Pelham on I-65 . . .  “out of the many, one!” 

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @ryanshinesburnfoundation