About Jesse

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my page. My name is Jesse VanOsdol, and I’d like to tell you a little about my story and why I am hiking across America to raise money for the Burn Unit at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Bonfire Gone Bad

In June 2010 I was burned on 15 percent of my body in a bonfire while attempting to light a large and damp burn pile, which towered over my head. Being that it was damp, I unwisely stepped onto a lower part of the burn pile to pour gasoline on top. You should never, ever try to light a fire with gas, as I found out when a hidden ember ignited the explosive burn pile. All at once I felt intense heat and fear as flames shriveled up my legs and torched my left arm.

I ran straight to a dive and a roll as I heard my friend Ben Lewis yelling “STOP, DROP and ROLL!” God’s earth quenched my fiery feet: with adrenaline pumping I stood to find all my skin on my left arm from elbow to fingers hanging about about six inches down. As I came to my senses, I felt a painful burning and I looked down to see my shorts were smoldering. I instinctively ran and dove in a nearby creek. My friends called 911 and soon the first responders brought me to Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana to be treated for first to third degree burns.

Pain Is Not My Friend

That night is a painful blur to me; a sweet nurse had the more than unpleasant job of debriding me. I learned the meaning of that word the hard way by having the burnt skin and bubbly blisters scrubbed off my body with a wet cloth. Despite the caring focus of the nurse, it was a night I will never forget. The following days consisted of multiple trips to the debriding tanks, of which I developed a teeth-grinding fear. Thankfully Riley Childrens Hospital’s staff consists of heroes who helped me overcome every obstacle. Tony, Lesley, Ashley, and so many others would not let me quit and did everything they could to help me.

Daily Routine
My everyday consisted of multiple IV changes, a hospital bed, and an extremely high- calorie, high-protein diet to help my skin heal. Every day, my mom and sister would  bring me protein shakes. Physical therapists came to help me stretch and work my skin so it would not grow in too tight–another painful process. I had my mother and father, Jane and Mark Vanosdol, my sister Amber, and my good friends Ben Lewis and Kaylee Reeh constantly by my side giving me loving support the whole way. So many others came and supported me in the hospital:  my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends and my pastors. I learned that across many states and churches, people were praying for me.

A Special Patient

All of my future plans were suddenly in question. I was supposed to leave in just four weeks for automotive school in Florida, but that was now looking almost impossible. On a really hard day, I met a special friend in the room next to mine. She was only four years old and she had already been on the burn ward for three months when I arrived! She encouraged me and made me think that if she, whose burns were so much worse than mine, had the courage to endure, then I could too. (I am happy to tell you she is home now.) I will never forget her.

Answer to Prayer

After only seven days I was miraculously able to start to walk without assistance. My body was healing freakishly quick, and I was blessed that I didn’t have to have my scheduled surgery to get skin grafts. Between the hospital’s great staff, family, friends, and God’s healing hand, I was able to be released from the hospital in just seven days to continue recovering at home, with outpatient care.

Three weeks later, I had my bandages completely removed and now just had to wear support bands. I was even cleared to leave for school. I had one week to prepare!


It’s now been 15 months since I was burned. I have earned my mechanics certification from Universal Technical Institute in Kissimmee, Florida and am currently getting additional training with Universal Technical Institute and Mercedes-Benz in California. I will graduate in November 2011 from this training.

A goal that I have set for myself is that right after graduation, I am going to leave on a fundraising walk for Riley Hospital. I want to walk from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida. I am planning on beginning this hike on November 17, 2011. I think it will take me from four to six months.

I am doing this to raise money for the patients on the burn unit who are there right now and who will be there in the future. Riley was so important to my health and healing. But, as my parents reminded me, it’s not just me. I had an older sister who was at Riley, Larissa, who died of a heart defect when she was 11-days old. My cousin’s daughter, Alexandria, received loving care at Riley until she also passed away. I’ve also had other extended family members whose children have been successfully treated at Riley. It holds a special place in my family’s heart.

How Can You Help?

If you would like to help me on my hike across America by donating to my walk, I would be so grateful! I am selling my car to hopefully cover my expenses while I am walking, so the proceeds you donate will go to the Burn Unit at Riley. No amount is too little or too big. Even $1 will help. I would also appreciate your prayers for a safe trip. You can keep up with me on my walk by reading my blog. I’ll be updating it as I walk.

I already have some friends whose little girls are going to hold a bake sale to raise money to donate. That makes me so excited that these kids would do this for me!

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for considering supporting me!

Step It Up!



36 responses to “About Jesse”

  1. Mary Kane says :

    I am so proud of you. My class will be following your progress and will be praying for you each day. I love you! Aunt Mary

    “I will walk before the Lord in the Land of the living.” Psalm 116:9

    • Jesse VanOsdol says :

      That is so cool thank you so much for supporting me. I was so excited to hear that your class is watching! please tell everyone that i say hi! Im thinking of using that bible verse as a headliner. Love you too!

  2. carol jewell says :

    Jesse, Jesse! What a role model you are to your younger cousins! Uncle Jon and I are so proud of you. I am in tears as I write this. We will be keeping up with you as you take this journey. Love and prayers all the way. Love Aunt Carol, Uncle Jon, Connor, Cullan, and Donovan

    • Jesse VanOsdol says :

      awww thankyou you are too sweet! be ready have a feeling i wont be the only cousin doing something crazy like this! thankyou for all your love and support i will try to keep all you guys updated with whats going on 🙂
      love jesse

  3. Amy Daly says :

    Hey Jesse~You are a remarkable young man! You will be in my thoughts and prayers during this journey. Thank you for remembering Alexandria. Love you. Amy

    • Jesse VanOsdol says :

      thankyou ill take all the prayers i can get! its pretty amazing to think how much Riley Hospital has been involved in all our lives. Hopefully this will just be a little thankyou from all of us. Thanks again Amy, love jesse

  4. passport says :

    Jesse, I’m so proud of you! It’s always been fun reading the assorted cousins’ blogs as they traveled, and I’m looking forward to hearing your stories. We’ll be praying for you!

    Aunt Laura

    P.S. If you need a little inspiration for your journey, read “A Walk Across America”, by Peter Jenkins.

    • Jesse VanOsdol says :

      Its kind of funny id say we have an adventerous family! It always seems like one of the cousins is out doing something different at some far away place lol. Thankyou for writting me and im looking forward to hearing from you some more!
      love jesse

  5. Lori Nieter says :

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. I work with your Aunt Mary at Granger Christian School and my 6th grade class will be following your progress and praying for you every day.

    God Bless,
    Mrs. Lori Nieter

    • Jesse VanOsdol says :

      Thank you Lori for writting me and and following my story i am very excited! It means so much to me that you and your class will be following and praying for me. That is just further motivation for my journey. I appreciate all your caring and support, Jesse Vanosdol.

  6. Maggie Hunckler says :

    Jesse, Thank you for sharing your story and for keeping this blog. My daughter is one of the 5th grade girls who will be baking and following your journey this year. You are inspiring a lot of people! Congratulations on your graduation and we look forward to following your blog.

    Blessings to you and on your journey,
    Maggie Hunckler

    • jessedvan says :

      Thank you for writing me Maggie! The trip has been going well, I have been having too much fun! I can’t thank you and your daughter enough for all the help! Around 500 dollars total from all the fundraisers of the girls and mrs Roush… Which is more than a blessing.

  7. Emma Walpole says :

    hey this is Emma, and i am in the girls of grace group. yesterday my friends from girls of grace did our sale at kroger. it was a big hit!!! i had lots of fun!!! for school i am doing a current avent on you. i am also going to share it with my class and see if they can support you to!!!! i am also going to email my friend about the thing we made and sell them and make soem money for you!!!! i hope your walk goes well!!!

    Emma Walpole

    • janeevan says :

      Emma, This is Mrs. VanOsdol. Jesse couldn’t get his computer to work the other night, so I read your messages to him. Here is what he told me to tell you.

      “Emma, that fundraiser is amazing! Thanks so much–that’s awesome! I can’t believe you’re doing your current event on me. Maybe I could even come into your class when I’m done walking if they want me to. Thanks for all your hard work and telling your friends about this walk. You’re amazing and so are all the Girls of Grace!”


  8. Emma Walpole says :

    hey jesse, this is emma again. do you mind nowing when you have tiped this?

    • jessedvan says :

      Emma thank you so so much for what you and the other girls of grace did with the fundraiser!! All I have heard is great things about all of you and the turn out was incredible!! My walk is going great, I have different adventures everyday. Thank again for writing me and all your help.

  9. ivette says :

    Good bless u.u came into chevron the fist day we are praying for u

    • jessedvan says :

      Ivette thank you so much for writing me! That’s really exciting that you checked out my blog! Thankyou for taking interest in the charity. You made my day when I was at chevron!

  10. Danielle Hunckler says :

    hi jesse this Danielle from girls of grace! that must have been a miracle to find the orange and headlight. It might have been a gift from St.Nic or an early christmas gift. Girls of grace might send you a package in a big city. Merry Christmas! Danielle

  11. Gary Mitchell says :

    Hi Jesse

    This is Gary Mitchell, i emailed you earlier.
    Do you have a planned route for your walk or you taiking one day at a time? IF you would by chance walking through West Virginia there is a route 50 that goes right across the state.Also, there is rails to trail that runs along route 50. Let me know if you do.
    I buy you dinner and make arrangements for you at my church I go to. They have nice little camp site and shelter.
    God speed

  12. Danielle Hunckler says :

    hi jeese this is Danielle Hunckler from the girls of grace group. I know that you are almost done and was thinking since your coming home to westfield that you might be interested to coming to talk about your trip to my class and/or other girls’ classes. We do this thing called REACH at the end of the day and it talks about our futures. I will dicuss this with my teacher. Good luck! hope to see you soon!
    Danielle Hunckler

    • Danielle Hunckler says :

      jesse my teacher said yes but not during ISTEP that is the last weekend in April

      • Danielle Hunckler says :

        Jeese congrats on your finish! I heard you are going to visit another class visiting. Hope you can visit mine. Look at my previous posts for more info

      • jessedvan says :


        I would love to speak to your class! What date are you thinking? I will be home Saturday, April 28. Let me know what date you are thinking.
        Thanks for following my blog and all your hard work to help me!


      • Danielle Hunckler says :

        I will talk to my teacher on specific date but I hope the week of April30th through may 4th or the week of 7th of may to the 11th? I will have to get an ok on that though. Remember……. Congratulations from Girls of Grace!!!!!

      • Danielle Hunckler says :

        Jesse last night after we repiled we sent some info to fox 59 in indianapolis on your walk. We also watched you finish

      • Danielle Hunckler says :

        jesse my teacher said on monday, you can come in the week of the 7th through the 11th of may. please reply!!!!!!!!!

  13. Justin Carroll says :

    I meet Jesse today on his last few miles to Jacksonville Beach. As I was leaving work he was passing by my office. I was able to stop him just up the road and asked him what he was doing. It is an experience I will never forget. I plan on being at the end of his walk to support him and wish him the best of luck!

  14. Ginger Robertson says :

    Wow Jesse, how amazing!!! I had no idea about your accident and Im surprised I hadnt heard about it. I just happened to see a post Helen made today so I clicked on your link. So sorry you had to go through all that but its wonderful that you have recovered so well. What you are doing is of no surprise to me. I always knew by the way you were in class that you were an adventurous and caring young man. I would love for you to come talk to my class at JEL if you would be up to it once you return. You have done a great thing. Keep the faith. Ms. Robertson

  15. BJ Hill says :

    Hi Jesse,
    Congratulations from another cross-country walker! What an inspirational story. Andrew Forsthoefel sent me your way. I’d like to invite you to the first-ever Walk across America Conference which will be held in Boston this November. Please email me (highwaytohill@yahoo.com) for more information. Thanks and congrats again!

  16. janeevan says :

    Danielle, When are you out of school? Jesse started working immediately when he got home, which he wasn’t expecting. He wants to try to set up a date before school is out, possible in the afternoon. Will that work? Please have you or your teacher email me at janevanosdol@me.com.

    • Danielle Hunckler says :

      Jane, I sent you an email and included Danielle’s teacher’s email address as well. I think this can still happen! Danielle will be very excited. School isn’t out until June 6th.

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