SALT LAKE CITY — A 9-year-old girl whose sequin shirt caught fire last year is launching a new business to support burn survivors.
Aaliyah Shepard spent more than two months in the burn unit at the University of Utah hospital.
She will be back in November for her 8th surgery and plans to bring a strong message for other survivors: scars are beautiful.
In December 2019, Shepard leaned over a candle in her Mountain Green, Idaho home for a cup.
“I was wearing a sequined shirt and it just went up. I asked my sister if she could help me get it off and it got more and more bigger,” said the 4th grader.
Aaliyah suffered third, fourth and fifth degree burns over 25 percent of her body. She “coded” three times in the hospital.
“It was really hard at the beginning,” said Aaliyah.
Early on, she made heartbreaking confession.
“She did have one day she did want to give up. She told me ‘Mom, I wish I would have just died because it hurts so bad’,” said Tia Shepard said, Aaliyah’s mother.
Slowly, she healed which left large, deep scars.
“I was scared to show them off to people. I was always wearing long sleeves or t-shirts so I covered it,” Aaliyah said.
In the last ten months, she’s had a change of heart: scars show strength.
“Now she realizes they’re beautiful and so she shows them off all the time,” Aaliyah said.
It is support Aalyah wants is sharing on clothing and other items she’s selling online.
“This logo is on it and it’s called ‘Aalyah’s Heart,’ said Aaliyah.
“She knows she has purpose and she’s a fighter. That’s the best thing watching is watching her fight and not give up,” Tia said.
Aalyah is off all medication and is doing well with physical therapy.
A link to her clothing site can be found on “Aaliyah’s Journey” on Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org