Every city has its own natural disasters that are all too familiar and, being in California, ours happens to be fires. Some set intentionally, but most are products of high winds, inadvertent actions from humans, overgrowth in ecosystems, or a combination of these. In 2019 alone, Cal Fire and the US Forest Service recorded 7,860 fires (approx 259,823 acres) in the state of California. While those numbers are hard to process, what is undeniably more difficult to fathom are the number of innocent victims affected by those fires. Hundreds lose their lives, thousands are burned, and hundreds of thousands are displaced – having little to nothing to return home to. The reality of these truths weigh heavy but are not without hope. The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF) is on a mission to provide education on burn and fire prevention, while also offering a community of support and services to burn survivors.
AARBF’s voice comes from a place of tragic experience. Alisa Ann Ruch was just eight years old when she was fatally injured in a backyard barbecue accident in southern California. It was her brave parents who used their unspeakable loss to join forces with local firefighters and medical professionals to create AARBF in 1971. By teaching the world-renown “Stop, Drop and Roll” protocol, they started their mission of preventing burn injuries so that others did not have to experience the lifetime of heartache that was wrapped up in the unpredictable behavior of fires.
Celebrating their 49th anniversary this year, the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation has grown to a strong team in three California based offices spread across Pasadena, San Francisco and Fresno. Offering to those affected by burn injuries of any age opportunities to be a part of a community where injuries and feelings of being different are long forgotten. Year round, you can partake in one of their recreational programs that span from baseball games and ski trips to children and young adult camps. In addition, they offer extensive emotional support that includes hospital visits, nationwide support groups, phone calls or in-person counseling, financial aid, and provide guidance with work or school re-entry to better equip survivors with resources and confidence they deserve.
On the public education side, they offer burn prevention programs like The Firefighters in Safety Education (FISE) program, which provides free burn prevention education and materials to thousands of elementary aged school children every year (70,000 children educated since 2001). The comprehensive list of Youth Fire Setting (YFS) programs across California are designed to address the sensitive and difficult reality of child set fires. They also offer free downloadable prevention materials on their website for children and adults that include short books, activity sheets, and tip sheets for parents.
If you’re looking for a social event they leave little room for boredom with events nearly every weekend of the year. Activities like pancake breakfasts, volunteer appreciation week, as well as weekly discussion and support groups. In addition, you can attend events like the Bay Area Ferkin Festival (17 years celebrated Nov 2019!) which brings together dozens of local breweries to benefit the foundation or the 6th annual fundraising Bows for Dough which allows anyone to create a team. Show your support by wearing an AARBF bow from April 15 – June 3rd, and encourage your community to donate to the foundation. The winning team will be announced this summer.
Crucial to their cause, it is through annual donations made by individuals and companies like Oxgut that support the honorable work they continue to perform. If you would like to learn more about their mission, programs or events, please visit www.aarbf.org