Renewal is Greater Than Regret
The Newtons’ story is an important reminder that whatever challenges we face, renewal is greater than regret. Every member of the Newton family struggled in a different way, but they each embarked on a journey of recovery and renewal.
In 2009, Braegan and Kade were injured in a fire. After 3 months in the hospital, the Newton family returned home and tried to pick up where they left off. But they lived hours away from their doctor, and the family struggled without support.
In January of 2014, I was searching for something, anything, because I got tired of just existing. We live so far away from anything, and Oklahoma doesn’t have a support system for kids. In my search, I came across the Phoenix Society and Phoenix World Burn Congress. I wasn’t really sure what it was or even what to expect, but I applied for a scholarship and prayed we would be accepted.
When we got there, it was like a flood gate opened. I remember feeling all these things I had repressed. I would run to my room, call home, and tell my husband, “We aren’t okay. I don’t know what is happening to me. These people are making me feel all of these things, and I feel like for the first time I am healing!”
I felt like for the first time in five years, there was hope for my family! I knew I had to get my family to Phoenix WBC the following year. I mark that as the year my family began healing as a whole. Coming to Phoenix WBC validated everything we ALL had gone through. It acknowledged our individual struggles and gave us permission to feel the way we felt—and to heal.
Seeing my kids begin to open up, not live in fear or shame, and laugh again is priceless. Braegan smiling and looking someone in the eye when they are staring, holding her head up, is more than I could have ever hoped for. I feel like you gave the gift of healing, hope, and life back to my family.
I knew we weren’t over it, but for some reason I thought we should try to forget it. But when they came home, I could see Toni was determined. She had hope. I thought that was something I would never see in her again.
I was angry for what my family had gone through, and I didn’t know how to help. When we first started coming, I feel like we were searching for a way to breathe again, to exist as a family as a whole instead of this broken mess we’d become.
Every year, we come and heal a little more. We go home, have conversations we weren’t having, and tackle problems as a family. We have even begun talking about how we can help others in Oklahoma because we know we can’t be the only ones that have faced this here. We live in the middle of nowhere and we often go overlooked, but knowing that miles away there is someone who knew someday my family would need them is overwhelming.
We aren’t alone. Coming every year, connecting with old friends, and meeting new people has been key into our healing. I can’t even put into words what it means to me as a father and as a husband. I can’t express what the Phoenix Society has done for my family. We were able to start living again instead of just existing. Yes, we are still on a healing journey, but we are no longer moving backwards or standing still!
Gage Newton (16)
I’ve made some good friends that I text or play on PlayStation even after Phoenix WBC is over. I feel like I can be myself, and I don’t have to act a certain way there. I am not very good at sharing, but it is easier around my friends at Phoenix WBC. Everyone treats everyone with respect, and I really like that.
I thought my mom was crazy when she wanted me to come to Phoenix UBelong. I had it in my head that the accident didn’t bother me. I wasn’t there, so I didn’t feel like I had a right to be upset, but I really was. I told her I didn’t need it, this wasn’t even about me, but when I got there, I found out different. I found out I was more bothered than I wanted to admit, and I did have a story to tell. Phoenix UBelong gave me my voice back, or at least gave me permission to use it. I feel like finding Phoenix changed my life, and especially my family’s lives!
Kade Newton (15)
Before we came to Phoenix WBC, I felt really bad all the time. I blamed myself for the accident. I didn’t have to stay in the hospital like my sister so I felt guilty. I remember during the first Walk of Remembrance, I just started crying for no reason. My mom said it was because we all lost something in that fire, I was a survivor too, and it was time we stopped pretending we were okary. The next day, we went to Phoenix UBelong and something just helped me there. I started realizing why I was so sad all the time and started knowing that things were going to be okay. I made a friend there and when I got home I started making friends.
I love the Walk of Remembrance; there is something about it that makes me want to go to every year, to see people’s bravery, their struggles. And then how we walk as a time of celebration, a time to remember or be sad. I think it is really something.
How do you thank someone for changing your life? Someone out there cared enough to make sure we don’t have to be alone. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough.
Braegan Newton (12)
The first year when I came to Phoenix WBC, it was the first time I ever wore a pretty dress and didn’t feel like I had to cover up. We just danced with our new friends and had the best time ever!
I don’t know where I would be without Phoenix UBelong and Phoenix WBC. I felt really alone and angry before coming here. I still struggle with it sometimes, but I have made friends who understand what I go through. A lot of times I feel alone, but coming here shows me I’m not, and I feel like I have learned some things for even when I am at home.
I also have accepted my scars more. I used to wear a shirt under my uniforms because I didn’t want anyone to see my scars, but now I don’t care as much. Even if people ask me about them it doesn’t bother me as much because I know what to say. Phoenix UBelong helped me know I don’t have to say anything at all if I don’t want to. It helped me to feel like I have a little power over my situation. I am starting to see that burns are beautiful!
By supporting Phoenix Society, you support the diverse set of resources that touched every member of the Newton family. Every gift, no matter the size, helps families heal. This year, please consider giving the gift of renewal to other families like the Newtons.