From the SoCal Burn Ride: When burn survivor Trevor Holtan and US Marine Corps Captain David Kuntz each separately approached the Grossman Burn Foundation and Firefighters Quest for Burn Survivors in the summer of 2014 about starting a motorcycle benefit ride in Southern California, it was more than just a coincidence — it was meant to be.
“It’s something I’d been wanting to do for years,” says Holtan, who spent three months at the Grossman Burn Center in 1990 after an automobile accident killed his best friend and left 40% of his body covered in third and fourth degree burns.
“I figured, what would’ve been the point of having gone through this hellish experience? To do nothing would have been a waste of the life I had been given a second chance at. I needed to find a purpose that would make it all worthwhile. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know what, but I loved riding motorcycles.”
Holtan, who rides a 2000 special construction Harley Davidson ‘Franken-bike’, first brought the idea to a friend and Glendale Fire Station’s Battalion Chief, whose efforts with Firefighters Quest had been helping raise funds for burn survivors and their families for almost 20 years. A few years later, at a BBQ fundraiser at the West Hills Medical Center, Holtan formally presented the idea to the Grossman Burn Foundation and Firefighters Quest.
“That happened to be the first meeting of the SoCal Burn Ride and where I first heard that another gentleman – David – had brought the idea to them as well just shortly before that.”
“Coincidentally, and very fortunately,” recalls combat veteran and Motor City native David Kuntz, “Trevor had been speaking to people at the Foundation as well about doing a Burn Ride. So it all came together right at the same time.”
Kuntz, who left active service in 2012 and rides a 2011 Harley Davidson Rocker C, had been assigned as the motorcycle safety officer in his Reserve unit. Knowing that many reservists are also firefighters, and having heard through a friend that the Grossmans had gone overseas to help deployed troops that were burned in combat, Kuntz immediately wanted to get involved with the organizations’ efforts and proposed the idea to the Foundation’s chair.
“The work they had been doing really hit home to me,” says Kuntz. “The most common thing that people think about when a loved one gets deployed is the worst case scenario – being killed. A lot fewer people think about something short of that, which is sustaining some sort of injury which is now going to mean a lifetime of recovery, possibly a lifetime of pain, a lifetime of constantly adjusting and trying to get comfortable with who you are now. And leading up to deployment, I spent some time thinking about the fact that that was a very real possibility for me.”
“It’s one of those things,” Holtan reflects, “you never think that it could happen to you or someone you love and then, next thing you know, it does, and your whole life changes in that moment. And you’re left dealing with the aftermath of all the financial costs and treatment, the after care, physically, mentally, emotionally… Those were the darkest years of my life.
“Knowing how hard it is to go through all that – being in a hospital, having the scrub baths, the ‘feeling different than’ and the expenses, and everything that goes along with it, I realized that that’s something I could do to give back to the community. So the whole idea of the SoCal Burn Ride is to raise money to help the survivor and the family be able to transition back into their regular lives without having to worry about the additional costs associated with it.”