Encouragement · Friendship · healing-over-pain · Hope · Relationship

Flying without Fear

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I’m sitting here tonight thinking of the Asian artist who was commissioned by a Texan to paint a picture. When the picture was complete, over in the left corner of the canvas was the branch of a blossoming cherry tree, and a small bird was perched upon a branch. The whole rest of the painting was a vast white space. The Texan was very unhappy with the outcome. “Please fill up this canvas. That’s what I am paying you for!”

But the artist refused, saying, “Sir, if I do that, there will be no room for the bird to fly.”

In our rewarding work at RyanShines we welcome so many fragile little birds who have been grounded by their burns.

Each one is an original–a one-of-a-kind Child of God. Every pediatric burn survivor is sent to us without “operating instructions.”

We discover their unique needs by loving them, listening to them and by witnessing their innate instinct to spread their wings and fly.

Not one of them has lost their wings. No fire can touch the gift of wings they were born with.

It takes tender care and fierce love to help them grow. These are all normal little children no different than yours and mine.

We work with them and their parents to restore their dreams of flying without fear.

In the past year, we have introduced you to Jenna, Brantson, Cameron, Kaleigh, Louie, Jadah, Brody, Lucas, Lovely, Alex, LeDreshia and so many more of our burn children.

These brave girls and boys have shared their frighteningly sad stories to hundreds of strangers. They have endured unimaginable pain.

Many will undergo multiple surgeries that could continue throughout their childhood.

Every week we will paint their profiles in courage for you. As always, you will admire them and draw rich inspiration from them.

But every last one of us must take a step beyond admiration.

To be blunt, we cannot meet the deep needs of these special children without you.

As you invest your time and treasure in what you believe in, allow your personal vision to include the earthy and air-born mission of RyanShines.

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Decide now to join our team. 

Just ask me how!

dawn

www.ryanshines.com

https://www.instagram.com/ryanshinesburnfoundation/

Family · healing-over-pain · Hope

We are all together

(This is the speech I’m giving tonight at our first annual Gala. It’s the next best thing to being there.)

It’s best to begin with the children–our burn survivors. I hope you have had some time to see and engage our burn children.

They are our galaxy of bright stars.

Have you heard their stories? Many of our burn-kids had never told their story before, to anyone. Some of the stories seemed impossible to be built into words. But we knew the words were there and by listening attentively in a safe harbor of non-judgmental love, the stories began to surface at an event that we call “Catching Courage.”

Their courage was tangible though it’s hard to speak when your spirit has been broken.  statue grieving parents

Our family has a story and it was very hard to tell even to ourselves at home. 

Here’s our story.

It was a typical family Sat. afternoon going from a swimming meet to a soccer match.

We were on the expressway when our tire detreaded and the car started flipping 3/4 times.

There were 4 of us in the car–Ryan (7), Tyler (2), Ron and me.

The car burst into flames. Ryan and I caught fire first. And then it spread thru the car.

We were all burning. Ron was able to reach Tyler and pull him out of the fire. But Ryan was stuck in his seat belt and there was no way to pull him free before the fire took him.

Ron, Tyler and I were flown 600 miles away and a quarter of our bodies were burned.

Even though we know we’ll never get over this, we’re still here and our family is getting stronger at the broken places.

15 years after Ryan died, we saw it was the right time to build our foundation–Ryan Shines–in honor of our son.

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Ryan

One purpose of our foundation is to ensure that no burn child is left behind.

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We have created a safe place where burn survivors can heal.

It’s a place where we don’t run ahead of them demanding they keep up with us.

 

We communicate face to face on the same level.

And when we hear them begin to talk about their day from hell, when the world reversed its rotation, we are there with them. 

And not only us, but the firefighters were in the center of everything.

There are few men and women who wake up every morning to an unscripted day; a day that could be their last.

 

Firefighters are born, they’re not made. Their kind of courage and two scoops of craziness is deep in their DNA.

They run toward death while everyone else runs away. They have the gift of not thinking about themselves first.

Compassion is at the heart of their work. 

fireman facing fire

And compassion is at the heart of our work with them. When I first opened my eyes to it, I had no idea that Alabama is 2nd in the nation in suicide over work-related death.

You understand I’m talking about our firefighters.

It breaks my heart.

So many mothers losing their sons and daughters fighting every day like our family did to make sense of it. But, you know, it doesn’t make sense. 

Now. Imagine these 2 groups–our pediatric burn children and firefighters–spending a weekend or week together. Without saying a word, they recognize that they are standing on common ground. It creates a whole ‘new normal’ for them.

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The bond that began the day of the fire, continues even thru tonite.

It happens at all of our Catching Courage events.

And the bond between them is indestructible. 

One thing I’ve learned over these years is that when something awful happens,

“Why?” is almost always the wrong question.

When the roof caves in or a trap door springs, the only question worth asking is “Where do we go from here?”

And however we may answer that question, part of the answer will always be “together.”

Group Montg.

dawn

 

 

Faith · healing-over-pain · Hope · Motherhood

Hospital staff=family

“I was outside shoveling dirt, while my husband was operating the tractor. Our young daughter Ashlynn was inside.

 

Suddenly we heard a very loud BOOM, and, then, screams coming from inside the house.

Ashlynn came running to us on fire from the waist up.

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Her long brown hair was completely fried.

She was burned on her head, face, ears, hands, and legs.

Her body was cut from the shards of glass (the shower door had exploded).

 

She kept repeating, “I’m sorry momma, I thought it was a candle.”

It was a firecracker that sizzled for a second and caught fire.

She tried to put out the fire with a towel and the towel burst into flames. 

The fire had spread to my side of the vanity where there were a few aerosol cans

The explosion shattered the shower door.

We grabbed her up and drove her to our local ER. 

She was life-flighted from our hometown of Tahlequah, Oklahoma to the closest city where they removed a piece of glass the size of a pea from her eye.

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Then we were flown to Galveston to the Shriner’s Burns Hospital for Children. 

 

We were in that hospital for a month.

She is so courageous.

We continued to return there every few months for check-ups and it was always the same–like going home.

Hospital staff = family.

Now, her hair is growing back, she is enjoying school, and back to riding her dirt bike.

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She is partially blind in one eye, but she has learned to compensate.

She is doing better with the stares and questions.

She has come a long way and has been so strong and resilient. 

We thank God every day we still have ‘our little Miracle’ in our lives.

Much love to everyone surviving a burn injury.

I believe it does get better.

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Ashlynn & me

 

We hold onto each other as we travel our common journeys.” Ashlynn’s mom

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)

 

Encouragement · healing-over-pain · Hope

Marius: the courage to survive!

Marius is from Romania, and at the young age of eight, he experienced a horrific accident.

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Marius, age 7

He was sound asleep one minute, and suddenly awoke to a fire in his bedroom, and throughout the whole house.

He was blinded by flames and thick smoke.

He survived because he was able to crawl through the house and into the front yard away from the flames.

bs-marius 4His parents, however, were not as lucky and did not survive.

Marius sustained 3rd and 4th degree burns over 75 percent of his body; he lost his nose, he lost his fingers, and he lost his family.

He was treated in Romania and placed in an orphanage while he recovered.

He had two surviving siblings who were away at the time, but neither was able to care for Marius.

bs-marius 3While recovering in the orphanage Marius met two student nurses from the United States, these women feel in love with his infectious personality, and his courage to survive.

They decided to do something more for him and coordinated his transfer to Shriner’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California. 

Since coming to the United States Marius has undergone many operations: eye reconstruction, six toe-to-finger transfers, nose reconstruction and skin grafting of the mouth.bs-marius 5

But his healing in the United States has included more than his physical recovery.

Marius was adopted by the loving family of one of the American nurses that helped him in Romania.BS marius2

Now a thriving teenager, Marius is settled into his new life and new family.

He is an excellent student, plays on the football team and is looking forward to getting his driver’s permit.

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Marius is living proof of the perseverance of the human spirit.

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)

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

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

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