Co-op News

Florida Youth Honored on Co-op Tour

By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: July 9th, 2013

Ryan Flowers did not attend NRECA’s 49th annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. But by the time nearly 1,600 teenagers returned home, his was one of the most familiar names from the event.

Ryan Flowers (right) with fellow Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative Youth Tour delegate, Chandler Vines (far left) and alternate Seth Goodwin, weeks before Flowers died. (Photo By: Kristin Evans, GCEC)

Ryan Flowers (right) with fellow Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative Youth Tour delegate, Chandler Vines (far left) and alternate Seth Goodwin, weeks before Flowers died. (Photo By: Kristin Evans, GCEC)

Flowers was looking forward to visiting Washington, D.C., after he earned a slot as a representative of Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative last February. Less than six weeks before he was to make the trip, he was killed in an accident.

“He was truly one of the best students I’ve ever seen come through this program,” said Kristin Evans, manager of marketing and communication at Wewahitchka, Fla.-based Gulf Coast EC. “He had a 4.0 grade-point average and had already completed well over 600 hours of community service work.”

Flowers, 17, was weeks away from completing 11th grade at Blountstown High School. That’s where he was headed May 7, when his pickup truck collided with a log hauling truck in an intersection.

“Once we got on [the] scene and recognized the truck, then we recognized it was one of our own,” said Chief Doyle Daniels, of the Kinard Volunteer Fire Department. “That is probably the greatest nightmare of any department.”

Flowers had been a familiar face around the Kinard fire hall. He’d joined the department’s junior cadet program while in middle school and became a volunteer firefighter as soon as he was old enough.

When an opportunity came up for Flowers to get emergency medical technician training, he jumped right in, logging 500 hours with the Calhoun County Emergency Medical Services unit.

“Flowers kind of had a little grin about him that would just bust your heart,” said Daniels, who submitted his name to the Gulf Coast co-op as a Youth Tour prospect. “He was just a super all-around good man.”

After Flowers was buried with full firefighter’s honors May 11, his friends and family decided to establish a scholarship for firefighter and paramedic training on his behalf. They’ve sold hundreds of T-shirts stenciled with his name and firefighter’s number to raise money.

Teenagers from Florida wore T-shirts in memory of Ryan Flowers, who died before he could join them on Youth Tour.(Photo By: Sara Szeliga/FECA)

Teenagers from Florida wore T-shirts in memory of Ryan Flowers, who died before he could join them on Youth Tour. (Photo By: Sara Szeliga/FECA)

When Florida Youth Tour coordinators heard about the scholarship, they quickly decided that including the Flowers’ shirts in their Youth Tour regalia was a great idea.

“We purchased enough shirts to outfit the entire Florida delegation,” said Edie Beiner, statewide services coordinator of the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association, who also serves as the state’s Youth Tour director.

“Ryan Flowers was a phenomenal individual remembered for his work ethic, intelligence and thoughtfulness,” said Beiner. “He was so excited about going on Youth Tour that after his selection, he took time to write Kristin Evans at Gulf Coast EC, thanking her for the opportunity.”

The 32 Youth Tour delegates and nine chaperones from across Florida who made the trip wore the shirts on NRECA Youth Day, June 17. Most had met Flowers in April during a trip to the Florida state capital in Tallahassee hosted by the statewide association.

Their Youth Leadership Council member, Luis Arreguin, a young member of Live Oak-based Suwanee Valley Electric Cooperative, shared Flowers’ story during his introduction at the Youth Day Rally in Washington, D.C.

“I definitely feel that Ryan was with us in spirit,” Beiner said. “Even though his slot was filled by an alternate selected by his co-op, he was our unseen 33rd guest.”

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