It was tragic national news: on June 30, the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighting team from Prescott, Ariz., was battling the Yarnell Hill Fire, an Arizona wildfire that went from 200 to 2000 acres in hours. During the firefight, the wind abruptly changed direction, surrounding the team and killing 19 of the firefighters.
What perhaps didn't make national news was that 14 children from communities included in AYSO Area 12-B, lost their parents that day. The oldest of those children is only six years old.
“Many of these [firefighters] were people we knew who had their children playing in AYSO or had even played in AYSO as children themselves. They were part of our community,” explains AYSO volunteer Janelle Riedl who is leading an effort to ensure that all 14 children have the opportunity to play in AYSO for as long as they want and never have to worry about paying for it.
“The ages of the children reflect how young these firefighters were. They were mostly in their 20s,” says Janelle, whose own home had been saved only a few days earlier. “These were young men that lived in our community. They were our neighbors. They grew up here and went to school with our own kids.”
Hotshot team member Andrew Ashcraft was a father of four and an AYSO coach for his son Ryder, 6. His daughter Shiloh, 4, will play her first season in AYSO this fall. He and his wife Julianne also had a 1-year-old and 2-year-old.
Two of the other fallen firefighters, Robert Caldwell and Clayton Whitted, were AYSO alumni.
Region 172 in Prescott has established an account that will be used to fund the scholarships for the children of the fallen heroes. To contribute, send checks to: AYSO Region 172 First Responders Fund P.O. Box 11452 Prescott AZ 86304.
Vice President Joe Biden joined over 6,000 people on July 9 to pay tribute to the firefighters in a memorial service held in Prescott. Learn about that here