Central Region: Brian and Megan Leathers
AARBF’s Central CA Fundraising Award for 2020 goes to our incredible Father-Daughter team; Brian and Megan Leathers!
Year after year they dedicate their time and energy to coordinate a successful Central Coast Fire Chief’s Burn Relay which has 2 routes because of the many departments involved!
Brian is a Firefighter for Five Cities Fire Authority and started volunteering for AARBF in 1995 by going to schools in the region and providing burn prevention education. During this time, Brian met Morro Bay Fire Chief Steve Knuckles who coordinated the relay and was looking for someone to help coordinate/lead the south route of the relay. Around 2014, once Steve Knuckles became Fire Chief, Brian took over coordinating the whole relay Central Coast Burn Relay . Along with Brian becoming the coordinator of the relay, his daughter Megan also took an interest in community service. Megan has decided to be a part of AARBF through this event and help her father out as much as possible. For the last couple of years she has been instrumental with the planning and logistics of the relay!
Not only does this amazing team plan and lead a successful relay, they are officially part of the Chili-Cook off at Champ Camp. 2019, was their first year with a team at this annual event and they look forward to continuing to be a part of it.
Megan is looking forward to becoming a Champ Camp counselor next year. She has always worked with kids and this is an experience she has been wanting to be a part of for a few years. Megan wants to help educate kids and the community with the goal of spreading life-saving skills. She shared, “I want to be that person that empowers kids and is a role model in their lives if they don’t have one at home.”
Brian expressed that he is in the same boat as his daughter in that he also wants to empower the community to be safer. He has always loved prevention at the fire department level. He was able to take over the prevention pub ed program in his department and is passionate about spreading the message. Brian shared that when he was an infant, a pot of coffee spilled on him, landing him in the hospital for a couple of days. Although he does not identify as a burn survivor today, he believes this incident sparked an interest in keeping others safe from burn injuries.
Both Brian and Megan get excited every time October rolls around because it means the relay is happening! Megan shared that she feels very accomplished once the day is over, and looks forward to the next year!
We appreciate Brian and Megan very much and are so excited and grateful to have both be a part of AARBF, along with their puppy, Wrigley, who knows how to “STOP, DROP and ROLL”! Megan, we look forward to having you become a Champ Camp counselor in the near future!
Northern Region: Keith “Padres” Muelheim
Our awardee for the 2020, Northern California Fundraising Award is Keith “Padres” Muelheim!!
Padres is and has been a Firefighter for the Sonoma Fire Department for the past 18 years. To him, volunteering for AARBF is rewarding to him personally and in his career as it is his livelihood. Following in his father’s footsteps who was a volunteer firefighter for about 30 years, Padres also became one while thinking about pursuing a different career path. For about 19 years now, Padres went from being a Volunteer Firefighter to a Firefighter in the North Bay area.
Padres learned about the Foundation through his department. The department has been a part of the North bay relay and Padres has been helping with coordinating and is now the lead coordinator for the relay. AARBF routinely visits with fire departments to share how they can volunteer with the Foundation and it was during one of these presentations about Champ Camp that Padres’ interest was sparked. In 2013, he attended new counselor training and has been a part of AARBF, not just in the fundraising side, but now also as a Champ Camp counselor!
Padres shared how deeply he believes in finding something to participate in and giving your time back to the community. Year after year, Champ Camp has become a priority and he makes sure he is able to dedicate that week of time to the kiddos. He expressed how the kids have had a great impact on his passion for continuing to volunteer and seeing them grow up has been a unique experience.
Through volunteering in other realms, it has strengthened his passion to continue to support AARBF through coordinating and leading fundraisers like the North Bay which brings so much awareness and a generous amount of donations. Padres also participates in “Grow Your Stache” to fundraise even more!
We appreciate his commitment to AARBF and the community collectively and look forward to many more years of collaborating and growth!
Southern Region: LA Burn Relay Team
In Southern CA, we are awarding the 2020 Fundraising Award to the LA Burn Relay Team!
Year after year; Mike, Josh, Tyson and Chris work together as a team to coordinate and lead the relay alongside Jan from our Southern office. Mike started volunteering and being a part of the relay through his fire department (Santa Fe Springs Fire Department). Ray Dong (may he rest in peace) used to coordinate the relay, but once he passed away, Mike who had been working closely with Ray took over in 2017. Before this, he had been involved for about 9 years. Mike decided that he wanted to coordinate the relay alongside individuals passionate about helping and giving back so he reached out to Josh, Tyson and Chris who all agreed to be a part of the team.
Josh is a Manhattan Beach Firefighter and focuses on rallying the troops and reaching out to all of the different contact of the bay. Mike says, “the team makes me look good” while the team has said back that Mike does so much for the team, is such a strong leader and takes the leadership role to heart. Josh states, “He does a lot for us and AARBF.” Tyson is an LA County Firefighter, his role in the relay is to secure engines and fire vehicles and support them throughout. Chris works for Care Ambulance and ensures there is an ambulance at each leg of the relay. Josh and Mike make up the main contacts while Chris and Tyson are the energy, as described by Mike. Chris and Tyson also started a whole new golf tournament as well, aside from the relay.
In 2019, was the team’s highest year bringing in $45,000! This year they have a very great surprise ( a new addition) but we will have to wait to see what the surprise is once the relay is back on since it had to be postponed. The team is eager and ready to make this year’s relay amazing!
When asked why they continue to volunteer for AARBF this is what the team had to say;
Mike – “Getting to see the survivors young and old, and having them be so appreciative motivates you to keep going and keep helping. When you see it, the difference it makes it shows you that your hard work makes a difference in someone’s life, and it makes it all worth it.”
Josh – “ I got involved because of my family ties with Mike being my brother-in-law. Mike had gotten involved with the Foundation way before asking me to start helping. Mike and I grew up together and I have known him since freshman year in high school … it’s been quite a long time and he is now also family. He asked for my help and I said of course. Family drew me in, family is what keeps me in (AARBF is also my family). Being able to work with Jan, seeing and meeting all the survivors is special and have made it become family. It has been quite an experience to be a part of this and help. I want to recognize Mike, he does a lot for the team and he is the forefront in getting things started, spearheading ideas and the relay itself. He does so much when it comes down to coordinating and working closely with Jan. Besides being a team, you always need a good leader and Mike is that person. “
Tyson – “It’s almost as simple as I was asked. I think a lot of people are capable of helping or doing things they never thought they could accomplish. With a little nudge or simply a person asking them for help, that can be all the catalyst a person needs. I do believe it helps when that person is someone you respect and look up to like Mike. It makes it that much easier to say yes. It’s amazing what a little nudge can do to a person and put them on the path they know deep down is in them. So as for why I began to help, the simple question asked by someone I respect, was my catalyst to jump in. As for why I continue to help … I have always had an affection for children. Now I know we are not just helping children but the majority I would say are and also that’s the perfect time to shape the minds of the future and not let the world beat them down. It can be a tough world and especially for the AARBF children. With me being a firefighter, I also have a soft spot for my profession and how at times it can hurt people and myself. I constantly sit on the beach, after I surf and thank the lord for how I have been blessed but one of the best things that comes from me being present at the beach is to see the kids seeing the ocean for the first time. The kids, whomever they are light up and it is such a pure joy that it lights up everyone around them. This is the same feeling I get knowing that the AARBF family gets to spend one week up at Champ Camp knowing they are accepted and loved and not judged by society’s standards. I have a favorite artist whom I started collecting from Tahiti and one of his favorite pieces of mine is called “Acceptance.” In the end it’s what every individual wants and needs. A sense of acceptance, family, love, and home. I believe we only scratch the surface with what we do but knowing that people will be accepted for who they are and light up for one entire week like if it was the first time they saw the ocean, it’s the least we could do, and I believe each one of us comes away with more than we ever give.
The burn relay team demonstrates their passion for AARBF and the burn survivor community year after year! They love being able to have survivors speak on behalf of what AARBF means to them because it motivates everyone around them and just reinforces the purpose behind it all.
LA Burn Relay Team, we cannot thank you enough for all you have done for AARBF and continue to do. We look forward to seeing that extra addition on the relay and hope you are all very proud of all of your accomplishments, including deeply earning this award.