10-Year Anniversary of Tragedy Provides Opportunity to Give Back

The Pearson Family Shares What Inspired Them to Join Team Phoenix

By Toby Pearson

"...there are times in life when you need to be humble and accept help and there are times in life when you have the opportunity to give back."

“…there are times in life when you need to be humble and accept help and there are times in life when you have the opportunity to give back.”

Ten years ago, on August 28, my life changed forever. My wife and two daughters, Gracie,  4, and Lily, 3, were in a plane crash. They were traveling to our cabin in southern Ontario. My wife, Kathryn, and the pilot, my brother-in-law, Charlie, did not survive. Miraculously  Gracie and Lily did. However, the girls sustained broken, bones, burn injuries, and, of course, the loss of the life they had known and their mother.

So much has happened in the last 10 years. It is almost incomprehensible to think about  the journey that has been woven with grief, change, fear, surgeries, recovery, friendship beyond measure, limitless family support, new beginnings of my marriage to Katy, tears, laughter, intense feelings, anger, but always…hope. The 10-year anniversary of the crash  has provided the opportunity to reflect and revisit, at times, some of the pain, but also the warmth of the support from family, friends, and the healing opportunities we have been  provided through the Phoenix Society.

One thing I have learned over the past 10 years is that there are times in life when you need to be humble and accept help and there are times in life when you have the opportunity to give back. The 10-year anniversary marked an informative, growthful time period of my life. It was and is a time to give back and look forward for Gracie and Lily and toward their bright futures. Gracie now is 15, a freshman in high school, on the swim  team. She is kind and full of wisdom. Lily is 13 years old, a 7th grader. She loves to swim, be with friends, and plans to go surfing in the ocean sometime soon.

Toby and Katy after finishing the half-marathon as Team Phoenix members.

Toby and Katy after finishing the half-marathon as Team Phoenix members.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, Katy and I chose to raise money for the Phoenix Society by running a half-marathon. The phoenix rising up from the ashes, from adversity, is a sign of hope and resiliency. We wanted our run to be a tangible event that put a little more hope into the world, especially for other burn survivors, and for Grace and Lily.

We ran together, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in August 2013. It was a beautiful day—another journey together. We finished! In the end, it was a great way to turn the 10-
year anniversary of the tragedy of the plane crash and the accompanying physical and emotional trauma, into a motivation for a positive, forward-looking survivor rather-than-victim mentality. Ten years later we were able to remember and celebrate, and give back to those from whom we have received so much help.

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