The Ryan Shines Burn Foundation helps firefighters and children
Published: February 29, 2020
By: Carol Muse Evans
About 20 years ago, Ryan Hirn and his family, who lived in Texas, were in a fiery car accident. Dawn and Ron Hirn, Ryan’s parents, and his two-year-old brother Tyler were burned over more than 27 percent of their bodies, but they survived. Seven-year-old Ryan unfortunately did not.
Dawn Ryan says she and her husband went into a deep depression. “The only thing that kept us alive was our surviving child. You cannot tell your heart to live on – I felt dead inside for about 10 years,” Dawn recalls.
Years later, at age 41 and feeling the need to add more children to her “big Catholic family,” Dawn said she and her husband had two more boys, Colton and Trenton. A decision was made to move to Lake Martin in Alabama to get closer to her Georgia roots to raise her growing family. They even homeschooled for a while, but life eventually took the family to Mountain Brook where the children went to regular school, and Dawn felt the need to do something to give back to burn victims. “I felt like I was finally coming out of my depression,” she adds.
She first wanted to work with pediatric burn victims, which they did, but as they got to know firefighters who were involved and had been touched by these pediatric victims, Dawn says she found her niche, her purpose.
“Firefighters have a high rate of suicide,” Dawn explains. “It is probably about number 2 (cause of death) in the country among first responders. It’s tough. So we set out to help both pediatric burn victims and the firefighters touched by them.”
“The Ryan Shines Burn Foundation is dedicated to the healing of pediatric burn survivors and firefighters,” Dawn says. “As you would guess, firefighters and survivors do not meet together after the fire. Most of the time the firefighters never know if the patients they rescue and care for ever leave the hospital. That’s is where we come in.
“We are striving to fill the void left behind from not knowing what happens. They only way to do that is to bring them together. We spend the whole year organizing events for our survivors, their families and firefighters.”
It started with a burn camp that their oldest son, who had been in the tragic car accident, attended, then worked there as a counselor. Then they took a fishing trip to the Florida Keys, and it was there they found what was needed – the interaction of the firefighters with the surviving burn victims.
Today, the Keys Fishing Trip continues and has grown into a whole fishing tournament. They still do burn camp, and they offer scholarships to other camps, as well as activities for both burn victims and firefighters all throughout the year.
Ryan continues to “shine” long after his death through the foundation his parents have created, touching many lives who have been hurt by fire.
Carol Muse Evans is editor and publisher of Birmingham Parent.