Fulton Poppe demonstrates the power of Friendly Face Forward - Image courtesy of Cassandra Poppe Fulton Poppe demonstrates the power of Friendly Face Forward - Image courtesy of Cassandra Poppe

For any of you who have read my book The Grace of Yes, you will likely remember my friend "Fulton the Superhero". In the book, I shared how impressed and inspired I have been by Fulton's courage in the aftermath of his terrible burn accident. My gratitude has also gone our to Fulton's awesome parents Jay and Cassandra Poppe. In the face of a situation that likely might have caused many of us to go into despair, the Poppe family has instead chosen to become advocates for other children who have been impacted by burns.

As a result, we at CatholicMom.com are honored to stand with Fulton, Jay, Cassandra and the newly formed Friendly Face Forward, LLC. As Cassandra shares at their GoFundMe fundraising page:

On January 8, 2013, our lives changed forever.  That was the day our 4 year-old son Fulton’s tragic accident occurred.  Yet almost as soon as the flames that engulfed our little boy were extinguished, the hearts of those across the country, and eventually around the world, were enflamed with a level of love and compassion beyond comprehension.  Countless souls lifted our family up in prayer, and offered us meals and donations to help see us through those difficult months as we waited to bring Fulton home.

That day finally came but brought with it new challenges; the biggest being that of socially reintegrating Fulton into society in a way that both gave him confidence and made him feel less of an oddity.  And indeed, this was a challenge.  For while Fulton’s face, ravaged by fire and covered in skin grafts, was still beautiful to those who love him, most people who encountered him at the store, restaurants and playground simply saw his scars.  The patches of baldness on his head.  His missing ears.

We were partially prepared for the stares and the comments that came his way.  “I was burned,” was something Fulton said several times a day when we went out into public, but we noticed that so much was left unsaid.  Parents of curious children would whisk their children away, embarrassed by their children’s reactions and frequently express this embarrassment by being overly harsh with them. 

We felt bad for Fulton, still too young to understand why people seemed to avoid him, or why children seemed to get into trouble just for asking questions.  We felt bad for the children, who in most cases mean no harm but were simply naturally curious about another child who looked drastically different from themselves.  And we also felt bad for the parents, who had no idea they were to be suddenly faced with having to deal with the unpredictable behavior of their own children.  It was always so awkward, and we soon dreaded leaving the house.

Then one day, after a particularly painful encounter, Fulton tearfully asked why a certain boy treated him cruelly.  “They just don’t know what happened to me,” he lamented. And from that moment, the idea of Fulton’s Burn Cards was born. 

Mother and son put their heads together and came up with a small, folded informational card that Fulton now uses as a social crutch to not only help him regain some control over how unexpected social encounters unfold, but to diffuse the anxiety that sometimes builds up in others when they see their own children behaving in embarrassing ways.

Fulton’s cards show a picture of him both before and after the accident to show children that he did not always look as he does now.  Inside the card is a quick explanation of what happened to him along with some basic safety information to increase people’s burn awareness, and on the back is some first aid information for people to use in case of a severe burn.

The card offers people a few different ways they can then regain control of the conversation with their own children and immediately puts people at ease.  What always begins as an awkward moment now ends with friendly smiles.  Especially on Fulton’s face – for he knows that with every encounter, he is bringing a higher level of burn awareness to those he meets, which has been very important to him since his accident.  “I don’t want anyone to ever get burned!” he says.  

These cards have built a level of self-esteem in Fulton that we never dreamed possible.  With each positive experience his confidence grows, and on the rare occasion that the situation does not end well, he is still learning much from those moments as well.  For he knows that even for those who cannot seem to get past his scars and either reject him or continue to try to bully him, he can confidently walk away from the situation knowing he has done what he could to give them a chance to get to know him.  And in the end, those involved still have important safety and first aid information on burns which to him is the most important reason to have the cards in the first place. 

With the enthusiastic encouragement of the psychiatric, care coordination, physical therapy, and child life teams at the Shriner’s Burn Hospital in Galveston, TX it is our wish at Friendly Face Forward, LLC to offer customized burn cards to all children who have suffered injuries such as Fulton’s, FREE OF CHARGE.  These children have already survived one of the most excruciating forms of injuries one could suffer.  Now, we want them to move beyond survival and give them the tools to help them thrive! (Read in full here)

Please join me in going immediately to the Friendly Face Forward Startup Fund page and making a gift according to your means. Additionally, I ask that you keep this initiative and especially Fulton the Superhero and his family in your prayers. Finally, please consider sharing this on social media to help Friendly Face Forward meet its goal.