Southern Utah News Articles
Stories of Hope-Real Authentic Warriors
On February 3, 2020, then four-year-old Rawkee Hunt, Kanab, was severely burned while helping her dad on the farm. She was life flighted to UMC in Las Vegas, Nev., where she underwent her first surgery and spent eight days in the ICU. She was then flown to the University of Utah burn/trauma unit for another 52 days. She underwent seven more surgeries to receive grafting and recell. She has spent the last nearly two years undergoing countless treatments and procedures. She insists on keeping her spirits high and is determined to keep fighting no matter what.
“Throughout this journey, we have met the most incredible warriors, just like our own daughter,” said Rawkee’s mother, Megan Hunt. “We have been so touched by their loving support and wished to give back, in some little way, all the good that has been done for us.”
During Rawkee’s long stay in the hospital, she and her family received an outpouring of love in the form of not only texts, emails and phone calls, but also monetary donations, gift cards and gas vouchers. Rawkee also received so many gifts like crayons, stickers, makeup and more.
At first, Megan was sending thank you cards as often as she could. It soon became obvious that there was no way to keep up with the seemingly endless blessings and gifts being sent to her family, and Megan found herself wondering how else she could express her heartfelt gratitude and pay all these generous people back.
After several sleepless nights of feeling an emotional whirlwind of gratitude, stress, worry and sheer exhaustion, it came to her. She may not be able to pay all these people back, but Megan knew she could pay it forward.
Something that had stood out to Megan during their time at the hospital was being given a “Bailey Basket.” The Bailey Basket was created by a family who had also once spent much time in the hospital with their child, and was filled with things a stressed out family might forget while packing for a long stay in a hospital, i.e. shampoo, soap, blankets, etc. Megan was inspired by this, and asked Rawkee what she wished she would have had while she was in the hospital, and what she might put in her own ‘basket.’ Rawkee immediately said a pretty hospital gown, and the R.A.W (Real Authentic Warrior) Box was born.
“Even though they’re technically made for children,” said Megan, “those gowns did not fit right. They were baggy and plain, sad colors. One of the keys things we put in our R.A.W boxes are cute/fun hand-sewn hospital gowns, along with some cute grippy socks.”
Other things that get packed into the boxes are stuffed animals designed to hang from the IV towers, sunglasses, children’s books and stickers, toys and a letter to the patient stating, “everything will be OK.” One day Megan wishes to be able to cram the boxes completely full of toys and donations.
“The more we put this out there,” said Megan, “the more people have been willing to help. People donate supplies, materiel for the gowns, their time and skills to sew the gowns, and we even had Hot Wheels donate 5,000 toy cars to go in the boxes. We had a company volunteer to cover our shipping supplies for life and I almost couldn’t believe it!
“This whole thing is so much greater than me; I’m just the lucky spokesperson.”
Taking the first set of boxes up to the burn unit was extremely emotional for Megan and her family. After all the support and love they received while staying there, it was their turn to be the cheerleaders; to be the one’s saying, “You can do this!”
“It was such a spiritual journey for me. I felt like this could be so much bigger, I just needed to let it grow and be what it needed to be. We decided to create a non-profit called the RAW Foundation to continue this beautiful gift of paying it forward. A non-profit has to be selfless. It’s not just you, it’s a whole organization.”
As of January 2021, their non-profit was legally an entity. “I wasn’t even entirely sure what all we would offer through this organization, but with each day that passes I find myself reaching for my notebook to add yet another thing to the list,” said Megan.
Earlier this year, Megan received a call that a young girl, Charity, who had been in the burn unit at the same time as Rawkee, had passed away following a surgery. Megan had grown incredibly close to Charity’s family, and she was unsure how to go home and tell Rawkee what had happened.
“I wanted to fix it for her,” Megan said. “When I told her, she looked up at me and said, ‘mommy, I want to dance for Charity.’”
What started as a phone recording intended to be sent to Charity’s mom, soon became a much bigger project. The more Megan thought about it, the more she wanted to put into this project. Megan spent several hours with Jenna Corry of Red Rock Dance Academy choreographing a dance with Rawkee and some of the other girls in the academy.
“I wanted this to be incredibly specific to Charity and who she was, so we created a vision board to incorporate all of her favorite things into the dance. She loved to be barefoot and outside. Her favorite color was purple. She loved to paint, and she loved that when you mixed all the colors of the rainbow, you get brown.So the girls danced outside, barefoot, in purple dresses. They danced in front of a beautiful sandstone backdrop, the natural waves of which resembled a brown rainbow. Every little detail was so thought out and carefully planned. It was beautiful.
“I was so in awe of all the people who came together to help make this happen. It was truly a spiritual moment for us all, and such an amazing show of a community coming together to make something happen.”
The RAW Challenge is to feel beautiful in your own skin. “Rawkee will only ever know her face like this,” said Megan. “She doesn’t feel the need to hide. Our goal with the RAW Challenge is to take people out of ‘hiding’ and showcase them and the scars that help make them who they are.”
The RAW Foundation aims to invite a “real authentic warrior” to Kanab for a full week, all expenses paid, to pamper them and highlight their beauty. Burn and trauma survivors get nominated, and if selected for the challenge, they fill out an acceptance letter with a questionnaire used to create a personalized vision board all about them. They will receive a full week of salon treatments from Megan’s salon, Beautiful U, enjoy tours of national parks, local hikes and tours, and anything else they wish to do, all while sharing their story on camera.
“We want to showcase these warriors and their scars, but all at their own comfort level,” Megan explained. “We’ll post the recordings of their stay in Kanab and their unique stories to our social media pages. We want to not only inspire people who may be going through something similar, but also connect them with other survivors.
“Our family has been so blessed to connect with so many other amazing people; other burn and trauma survivors and their families, as well as other people out there just trying to help pay it forward and spread the light. We want to give other people the opportunity to make connections like this too.”
According to the RAW Foundation’s mission statement, “Our goal is to empower and connect with these REAL AUTHENTIC WARRIORS, helping them to share their stories and embrace their battle wounds. We are inspired with these stories and feel these individuals have lessons and messages to share that others need to hear. To nominate a friend or loved one, donate, or become involved in our cause, please reach out to us on social media: @real.authentic.warriors”.
The RAW Foundation is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the service of burn and trauma survivors and their families. You can make a donation to the foundation by going to www.realauthenticwarriors.com, or visiting their social media pages. All donations are tax deductible.