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.

2010 to 2011 Argentina to London 059
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.

ryan shines mosaic
“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

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?”

Kaleigh:lovely:dawn
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
2010 to 2011 Argentina to London 059
Trenton, Colton, Tyler & Chloe  ’10

 

 

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.

ff-Ofc philip

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!”

phillip davis.jpg

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.

ff-ofc philip4

 

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.

ff-ofc philip2

 

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

Encouragement · Friendship · Hope · Relationship

Kaleigh: opening like a rose

Nobody knows how it feels to be a child on fire except other burned children. 

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Though I wasn’t burned as a child, I understand that many pediatric burn survivors turn into turtles.

They start hiding for a good reason.

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Kaleigh

Public scarring.

One of Ryan Shines’ burn kids, Kaleigh, was burned in an electrical fire.

She was severely burned on her arms, stomach, and upper legs.

She tended to keep her head down, feeling great shame.

Humiliation tried to take her down.

But our “Catching Courage” events raised her up.

I want you to meet the new version of Kaleigh.

She has spent much of her young life trying to come to terms with her burns.

And she is.

Even though the pain in her eyes was obvious, now you can see something new being born in her.

Kaleigh found her Sparkle. 

Let me give you an example.

She met a fellow 13-year-old burn survivor named ‘Lovely,’ and they began a wonderful friendship.

Every time they get together at one of our Catching Courage Events, they are inseparable and the sparks fly.IMG_7001

Their ‘God-sparks’ shine like polished steel. 

Let me tell you what happened to these girls early this month. 

One of our firefighters had overheard Kaleigh and Lovely talking together about their dreams of the future(this was at our Catching Courage family weekend).

They were saying how they wish they could be models someday but knew it would be impossible because of their scars.Kaleigh caught CC

Our firefighter shared how sad he was when he heard these two 13-year-old girls talking about their dreams of the future and what is not possible anymore.

A friend of his, who happens to own a dress shop–Jo Wells in Montgomery–decided to step into the situation, and open her shop and her heart to them.

“I want those girls to model my clothes in my shop,” she said.

So, she arranged a photoshoot and called us at “Ryan Shines” to invite the girls to come model for her.

The word spread like a great party.

Group Montg.
Heroes of Montgomery, AL Fire & Rescue

Countless firefighters from Montgomery climbed on board with us and even brought their big red firetruck.

Suddenly, there was an influx of new friends we didn’t know we had!

What a celebration!

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Lovely, Kaleigh and me

 

We were celebrating Kaleigh and Lovely!

And the dreams they were dreaming were already beginning to blossom. 

Kaleigh-dress

Don’t you just love that?!

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)

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family travel · Hope · Motherhood

A wonderful gift waiting for us in China!

Molly could be weighed against feathers.

She is so little for all the machines surrounding in the burn hospital, giving and taking.

China ward
Shanghai General Hospital , China

She had suffered through God knows how many surgeries, not to mention the endless skin-graphs.

Did I tell you we met her in China at the burn hospital in Bejing?

So many children, so little time!

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Molly

You know the feeling of wanting to take them home with us in.

We brought a big white stuffed dog for Molly.

 

When our Tyler bent down eye-to-eye with Molly he gave her his high-beam smile (a wonderful gift in itself); then, he took the big dog out of it’s red package and handed it to her.

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Tyler

We were all happy-surprised when she reached out on her own to take it from Tyler.

She turned to her mother and hugged her with her dog between them.

Every door in my heart blew open.

I was full of love for Molly, but I had some questions. 

When she leaves here will she be stroller’d out into the great outdoors?

As she grows, will she pedal down neighborhood streets on her two-wheeler? 

Will the other children accept her?

Will she swing around the pole of parking meters?

When she sleeps will she reach out for stars?

I look at her mother and remembered every emotion rocking her heart.

All I want to do is to sweep Molly up and rock her for a solid month-and-a-half.

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 @dawnraymondhirn)

Faith · healing-over-pain · Hope · Relationship

“All I did was pray in the ambulance.”

I’m going to tell you a story, but the star of our story is way bigger than a simple story.

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Jadah at Camp Conquest ’18

She’s a capital “S” Story!

Jadah is the girl, and she is God’s ‘S’tory!

The secret word here is one of the best words ever:  MIRACLE!

Jadah was burned over much of her body.

She and her cousins woke up early and went out back to re-light the bonfire of the night before.

One of her cousins opened a can of gas to help the fire along.

Suddenly, the fire backed-up into the can, he dropped it and it exploded on Jadah!

She ran into the house on fire and somebody called 911.

The hospital was 45 miles away, and it took that long for the ambulance to arrive.

Jadah sat her burning body down in a chair to wait.

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Jadah & Cpt. Cheeney Catching Courage ’18

There was so much pain she began to think she wouldn’t make it.

“All I did was to pray in the ambulance,” she told me.

Jadah said, ”It was so rough fighting in the hospital.

All the medicine they shot in me made me feel really weird and not myself.

I remember the pain.

Nothing could reach it.

It was all over me, and it was so horrible and so hard!

But it also really made me fight.

And even while I was fighting I realized God was busy working on me, too, inside and out!”

CC Jadah fish

Spoiler alert! Here comes the MIRACLE!

“I was miracle-healed!” (I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!)

She began to cry and said it again: “I was miracle-healed. God took most of my scars away!

God was giving me a second chance.”

Finally, she said, “I want to thank the firefighters, the paramedics, and the police officers.

They are all heroes!

My dad is a firefighter, and I know it hurt him almost as much as me!”

There was so much Courage sitting across from me.

Jadah dolphin
Jadah’s new friend  Catching Courage ’18

But more than anything, her deep gratitude.

dawn

#catchingcourage #ryanshines

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 @dawnraymondhirn)

 

 

 

Encouragement · Hope · Relationship

Who rescues the rescuers?

How does Ryan Shines help support our Firefighters?

We’re building a community at Ryan Shines that recognizes that Firefighters are stronger when they face their daily internal reality together and head-on.

ff-peer support

We want this community of trust to be available to every Career&Volunteer&Retired Firefighter in America.

We want to show them that Firefighters don’t ever have to live or die alone.

ff-peer

So we will join their band of brothers and sisters from across the state to form a support network for the mental and physical health of their fellow Firefighters by providing trained assistance through a  “Firefighter Peer Support” Team.

Let me tell you the story about a Fire Chief in Alabama. His name is Mark Sealy and he oversees 24 fire stations in Mobile.

mark sealy

His best friend, a fellow Firefighter, suffered and died from PTSD.

All he knew was to self-medicate.

That’s the day when the Chief really ‘got it.’

His friend had survived every emergency that Firefighters face but his ‘internal Civil War’ took him out.

So, Mark not only knows everything first hand about firefighting but he has also been at the center of personal tragedy himself.

And he’s so open and eager that our common dream of ‘Peer Support’ take root and grow.

ff-peer6

 

In other words,  we ‘drank the kool-aid.’

I wish I could clone him and send him to every fire station in the country.

This is what we are developing in our own circle of influence.

We have created our first of many statewide Support Teams called “Alabama Firefighter Peer Support” at Ryan Shines.

Now, I am not fluent in ‘Firefighter,’ but I do understand personal trauma and the aftermath (PTSD), and the importance of finding friends you can trust.

You’ll find men and women with whom you can speak in a kind of  ‘shorthand’ because they intimately know the words and the feelings that have been burned into their brain since their first fire. 

Ryan
Ryan

Every day I wish Ryan was here. But when I look at all we’re doing together, he is no less than the engine driving us, and his is the Shining that lights our way.

 

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 @dawnraymondhirn)