Central Region: Kelly “Sunflower” Dern
AARBF’s Central California 2021 award recipient is our cherished Kelly “Sunflower” Dern. She continuously gives her all for our foundation and we cannot be prouder to have her be a part of our AARBF family!
Kelly was born and raised in Fresno. She got involved in the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation the summer of 2017. Her husband was a Fire Captain for the Fresno Fire Department serving 28 years. On March 29, 2015, a roof collapsed underneath him, sending him into the burning structure below. He was stuck inside and had to be rescued by his fellow crew members. They say that he only had seconds to live. He suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns to 70% of his body. She spent close to seven months in the hospital, never leaving her husband’s side. The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation was there for her along with the amazing fire family. Because of this constant love and support, Kelly vowed that as soon as she could, she would give back to this amazing community that was her rock during a very terrifying time. After attending Champ Camp for the first time in 2017, Kelly knew that she was hooked and would be a lifelong volunteer. She says, “I am passionate about helping other survivors. This actually ended up being a huge inspiration for myself as well. I see the determination in these kids’ faces and it encourages me to never stop giving up.” She says that she will be with the foundation, “for ever and ever and ever and ever!”
Kelly continues to be a part of the foundation because, “I enjoy it and believe what the foundation stands for. Being a part of a burn survivor’s life and helping them get through things is very rewarding.”
In addition to Champ Camp, Kelly is also part of many regional events year-round including the Ski Trip, Clovis Dinner and Dance, and the Holiday Party. Recently, Kelly has been a part of our Expression Series. She has led 2 groups of survivors, community partners and caregivers through a step-by-step lesson in watercolor painting. Kelly is one talented painter! She has learned to channel her healing journey into a positive outlet – painting. She wants to share her talents with others in hopes that they, too, will find healing and solace in art. Kelly is also one of the foundation’s peer supporters. She hopes that she can use her experience, to give someone else the much-needed support they need to navigate a burn injury and the healing process.
Her experience with AARBF includes so many fun memories, such as, dressing up all of her campers during Champ Camp and watching their faces light up when she would pull out tutus and tiaras for them to wear. Her favorite costume she and her campers have worn was “the superheroes, of course!! All of these kids are superheroes in my eyes!” She also loves being able to see all of the amazing counselors from all across the country come together for one cause. She says that these volunteers make her heart happy and fills her cup.
We appreciate your heart and dedication to our foundation. We are so thankful you are part of AARBF!
Northern Region: Rana "Lil Bear' Stephan
AARBF’s Northern California 2021 award recipient is our very own Rana “Lil Bear” Stephan!
Rana first became involved with the foundation around 2011. She was in Nursing school and was looking for a way to give back during her free time. She remembered AARBF from a time her Grandmother was in the hospital reached out to learn more. Rana began by assisting in the office with prevention programming but she was always hearing about Champ Camp and the survivor services part of the foundation. Around the time she was graduating from school, she became a Champ Camp counselor and discovered how much she loved supporting burn survivors. Through a twist of fate, Rana was volunteering for an AARBF holiday party at SCVMC and saw the name of another Champ Camp counselor, reached out, and eventually found herself on a new path in her nursing career. Rana will tell you that it is through the foundation she launched her nursing career, met her husband and made many lasting friendships with other Champ Camp volunteers.
When asked to join the AARBF Board of Directors, Rana was very excited and honored to be named the head of the Survivor Service committee!
As a nurse, total patient care is very important to Rana. She is passionate about supporting survivors from when she meets them to getting them connected with the foundations (AARBF, SJFFBF and Phoenix) to help them on their survivor journey. She is co-facilitating the SCVMC support group and always making sure her patients and their families receive the after care and emotional support they need. Rana feels that being able to connect with patients after they recover, aids in improving herself as a nurse.
Rana has been a part of YAS, Getaway, Monterey bay aquarium, ski trip and outdoor camp. Thank you, Rana for all you do to help the Northern Region and beyond!
Southern Region: Cindy "Cinderella" Rutter
AARBF’s Southern California 2021 award recipient is the fabulous Cindy “Cinderella” Rutter!
Cindy began volunteering for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation in 1991. Cindy has been a part of YAS, The Retreat, The Aquarium of the Pacific event-SCA, The Getaway (Cindy says it her favorite!). In 2019, Cindy Rutter and Ruth Rimmer began planning a new program for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation called the “The Women’s Burn Survivor Retreat”. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic they transitioned it to a virtual program and it was held in July as the Women’s Empowerment Webinar. Cindy joined the AARBF executive board from 2005-2007: then transitioned to the Advisory board and has been a part of different committees from 2008-2021. In 2018 Cindy began meeting with burn survivors offering therapy pro-bono for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation. The Caregivers and Family support group is facilitated by Cindy, once a month.
Cindy is a true advocate for burn survivors. Cindy is passionate about helping those that have been through trauma, both burn survivors and their families alike. Cindy says “I come to give, but I receive so much more than I give: I leave motivated and inspired by everyone that is part of these programs”. We are very fortunate to have Cindy, a nationally recognized burn community advocate, giving her time to AARBF survivors and their families!
Thank you, Cindy for all you do to support burn survivors in our Southern California region and throughout the state!