Firefighters For Healing nominated Mary Soligny for Minneapolis St Paul Magazine’s 8th annual Outstanding Nurses Awards that honors exemplary nurses who perform with skill and leadership. There were 285 nominations from a variety of entities that showcased the tremendous talent in the Twin Cities nursing and health care community. Nominations were judged by a panel of nurses working in the field and Mary was named one of just 80 finalists. The awards ceremony will be held in August and the winners will be profiled in the December 2019 issue of Mpls. St.Paul Magazine. Here is her story:
If it hurts to look back,
if you’re scared to look forward,
look beside you and I will be there.
When our Founder Jake first met Mary more than 15 years ago, he was a firefighter and she was a personal trainer raising a young family. They quickly became friends. Then just 8 years ago, life took a twist and saw Jake in the burn unit after surviving a backdraft explosion. His burns were down to the bones in some areas and he felt lost and devastated when doctors told him he would never return to fighting fires. Mary and many of Jake’s friends were there to listen, brainstorm, plot and strategize next steps. Mary witnessed moments that left an impression on her heart.
Every next level of your life
will demand a new version of your best.
Navigating her own journey at that time, Mary had returned to school to complete a registered nursing (RN) program and was volunteering alongside Jake at his newly formed non profit named Firefighters for Healing. She would help at events, create gift baskets for donors, join him for visits to the burn unit and donate silent auction packages. By witnessing her friend’s tragedy and then experiencing his special interactions with patients and their families, Mary felt a tug at her heart to do more. She had learned first hand that the recovery period for significant burns can last weeks and months and involve numerous surgeries and extensive hospital stays. Once discharged from the hospital, these burn survivors need support adjusting to their new normal. Every next step would demand a new version of who they once were. Mary knew that feeling.
Seeing other people be brave
makes me feel brave too
In 2015, Mary volunteered as a camp counselor at Firefighters for Healing’s Camp RED with young burn survivors between the ages of 6-16 years old. Mary’s genuine empathy and positivity shone through to make every camper and adult feel at ease, comfortable and cared for. She has many treasured memories of brave and raw conversations with campers. There are interactions with parents who were reporting their child’s first milestones or breakthroughs that she will never forget. Seeing other people be brave gave her the motivation to be brave and complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Rasmussen College. After graduating in December 2017, Mary found a role on the Hennepin Healthcare Burn Unit team that provides a holistic approach to helping survivors of trauma heal physically, mentally and emotionally. In just 18 months, Mary has exceeded expectations by connecting and modeling what brave looks like for the many patients and families she cares for.
Mary is positive, uplifting and
encouraging to her team,
her patients and many volunteers
“Mary leaves a lasting impression on you. Her empathy and stamina to endure traumatic dressing changes is admirable. She can then quickly change gears to throw an impromptu birthday party for a 5 year old or advocate for a patient in need of support for clothing, meals or therapy toys from Firefighters For Healing,” wrote Firefighters For Healing Founder Jake LaFerriere. “She freely shares her knowledge, her heart and her positivity with everyone.”
We hope Mary’s story will inspire other people to step into the nursing profession. As Firefighters For Healing grows and continues to lean on more and more volunteers to extend our programs and services, we hope that students, young adults, adults with time and skill, seniors with passion and energy will continue to contribute their time, talent and treasure. This ministry works when we all band together to create a safety net for burn survivors and their families. Consider joining us as a volunteer, donor or board member before 2020.
About Firefighters for Healing
Firefighters For Healing (firefightersforhealing.org) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was established in 2010 after Minneapolis firefighter Jake LaFerriere suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns in a backdraft explosion while battling a house fire. Our mission is to support burn survivors, firefighters and their families with the flexibility to support immediate needs for clothing, housing and meals to camp scholarships, surgery assistance and support services they cannot receive from other sources.