‘Fueling Fierce. The Shannon Heil Story’ will tell how one girl made a difference

‘Fueling Fierce. The Shannon Heil Story’ will tell how one girl made a difference

BURRILLVILLE – Many people could live a lifetime and not make the kind of impact that Shannon Heil had during her 18 years on this earth, says her father.

Brian Heil knew his daughter as someone who cared about so many people, but even he didn’t realize just what an impact the girl who could take over a room with her personality and smile would have.

“Fueling Fierce. The Shannon Heil Story,” a four-part film series now in production, will tell Shannon’s story in her own words and from the perspectives of the people who knew her. Filmmaker Christian de Rezendes, of “Raising Matty Christian” and “41” fame, is the “great storyteller” behind the series, said Heil. De Rezendes' film company is Breaking Branches Pictures.

Shannon Heil, a cheerleader and graduate of Woonsocket Vocational Technical High School and Toni and Guy Hairdressing Academy, died in a car accident in Burrillville on July 11, 2013.

• The first segment of the series about her will tell the “different aspects around Shannon’s life and how she impacted people," said her father. A trailer using her “Make it Something to Remember” poem, written 90 days before she died, has been viewed nearly 20,000 times online. Watch it below:

• The second piece will focus on the creation and success of the Fierce for Shannon Foundation, an organization designed to invest financially and through relationships with young people who embody the “fierce” attributes of Shannon. Life was all about relationships to Shannon, said her father, and that’s a lot of what the foundation is about (www.fierceforshannon.org).

• The third part will highlight the “Share for Shannon” campaign urging people to pay it forward with kindness. The movement "has gone global," said Heil. There was an “amazing” response when Share for Shannon first started, with people buying a coffee for someone or serving breakfast to first responders, and the movement has only grown, he said. Those first responders saw his daughter at her worst moment and then went home to hug their families, said Heil. “They’ve been family to me.”

• The fourth part of the series will be a compilation of interviews from people who were part of the Shannon story, including the woman in the other car and the first responders who came to the accident scene.

Brian Heil said he remembers being told after Shannon's death that he must be in shock, that he was too calm, but he said it was his Christian faith that gave him strength to see beyond the grave. He told a social worker that he knew three things, that Shannon had been in an accident, that she died, and that she was now in heaven. He said he knew even then that “God has a purpose” and would use his daughter’s life – and death – for something great.

Shannon had invested so much in humanity and inspired so many people through her grace, her athleticism, her motivating people to push themselves, said Heil. His daughter was tall, close to 6 feet, and her ever-changing hair and huge personality drew attention wherever she went, said her father. The upcoming film series will capture all of that, he said, while hopefully continuing what Shannon started.

“I hope it inspires people to live differently, to be compassionate,” he said.

Shannon lived with a dedication and determination that he’s rarely seen in anyone, said her father, and her life continues to be a testament to who she is.

“Go big or go home, that’s how she lived her life,” he said.

Like anyone, Shannon wasn't perfect, said Heil, but her life was still an example to others.

Heil said his motivation in initially starting the foundation and other events like the Fierce Five Road Race was to help Shannon’s friends move on from her death and help them see that her life could continue impacting others.

As part of the Share for Shannon phenomenon, Heil will be giving out Share for Shannon coupons to a “Fierce mob” of people to do an act of kindness for others on July 11. For example, someone could use their coupon to buy a coffee for the 10 people behind them at the coffee shop. The idea, said Heil is that one act of kindness could change the entire perspective for the recipient.

“What an amazing impact that could have,” he said.

Those who participate will be asked to flood the “Share for Shannon” Facebook page with pictures and stories of their experiences, said Heil.

The Share for Shannon movement has led to so many stories of people having their lives changed, said Heil. One example is a man named Mark he met on the bikeway. Mark was experiencing health issues and trying to lose weight, but was struggling along wearing clogs and couldn’t afford a new pair of sneakers. Heil bought him a new pair of sneakers, telling him only to pay the kindness forward, and then posted the story on the Share for Shannon Facebook page. Not long after, he heard from a woman who said she was Mark’s daughter and she hadn’t seen her father in years. She thanked him for helping her reconnect with him.

“Shannon’s life is changing people’s lives,” said Heil.

Brian Heil, father of Shannon Heil, has partnered with Woonsocket filmmaker Christian de Rezendes to create a four-part series on his daughter’s life and impact since her death.