The Blogging World Comes to the Rescue of a Mesa Couple Badly Burned in a Plane Crash

By Niki D’Andrea

Many non-news blogs are self-indulgent virtual soapboxes, mediums for amateur writers to engage in philosophical wankery that rage against the rhetoric of those who don’t agree with them. In 1994, way before blogging became the flagship du jour of the Digital Age, rock ‘n’ roll widow and trash-talking train wreck Courtney Love called the Internet “a faceless barbershop where people gossip at each other.”

But a different Courtney -- a Mormon mother of one named Courtney Kendrick – is proving that the Internet does have a soft spot, and that blogs can serve a purpose higher than self-promotion or curt critiques of movies and music. Kendrick’s been using her blog, “Cjane Enjoy," to raise funds for her sister and brother-in-law, both Mesa residents, who were involved in a private plane crash back in August and are still undergoing extensive reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts in the burn unit of a Phoenix hospital. Kendrick’s cyberspace campaign has raised thousands of dollars to date, and garnered coverage everywhere from NBC’s Today Show (September 9) to an article in The New York Times.

Kendrick’s blog discusses her struggles with infertility, the challenges of raising children, and her interactions with her nieces and nephews in a poignant, earnest way. But really, she’s only following her sister’s lead. Kendrick’s sister, Stephanie Aurora Nielson, is the author of the hugely popular blog “The Nie Nie Dialogues,” which has a fan base of readers that stretches across the globe. Parents, in particular, seemed to connect to Nielsen, and her struggles and triumphs while raising four children, all under the ages of seven. So when tragedy struck, readers responded.

Stephanie Nielson with Oliver, one of her four children.

On August 16, 2008, Stephanie and her husband, Christian, were involved in the plane crash in St. John’s, Arizona. According to the federal crash report, after refueling, the plane attempted to take off and the engine stalled, sending the aircraft (a Cessna 177) plummeting back to Earth. The pilot was killed. Christian Nielson suffered burns to 30 percent of his body; Stephanie Nielsen suffered burns to 80 percent of hers and, according to Kendrick, has been given a 60 to 70 percent chance of survival. Kendrick is taking care of the couple’s four children while burn unit doctors attempt to reconstruct Stephanie’s face and graft new skin onto the Nielsons’ bodies.

Updates on the Nielsons’ conditions (still described as “critical” by Kendrick) are available on Kendrick’s blog, and there are also links to places for readers to donate funds to offset medical costs. So far, the response has been good. There have been monetary donations, and people from as far away as Germany and Australia participated in a big helium-balloon release in honor of Stephanie Nielson. On October 25, recording artist Mindy Gledhill will host a benefit concert at Mountain View High School (see flier below).

Kendrick is hoping for the best, of course, and appreciates the support from readers. “You know what Blogdom?” she writes. “YOU are such an answer to our prayers.”’

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea