John and Ashley Barron have seen their fair share of heartache over the years.
About 10 years ago, they lost their child, Carter, in a tragic accident. At the same time, their youngest child, Kaiden, was going through multiple surgeries after being born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
But those difficult times have brought the couple closer together. And as a family, they’ve persevered.
They’ve learned to take each day and make it their best. Live life to the fullest. Enjoy the moment. Because nothing is promised.
They’ve taken that attitude, and used it to make a positive difference in the lives of many.
Ashley and John both spend much of their time volunteering. They’re both members of the Marion Fire Department, and are continuously working to further their careers as front-line first responders.
You can also find Ashley and John volunteering with Marion Public Schools. John has been an active volunteer with the Marion Football and Baseball programs for the last few years, while Ashley helps out with the Marion Athletic Boosters.
But family is always first for the Barron’s. Living in the same Middle Branch country home that Ashley was raised in, they spend much of their free time watching their kids enjoy life. Whether it’s hunting, fishing, riding their 4-wheelers, or playing sports, the Barron family is making the most of every day.
We caught up with Ashley and John recently and learned a little more about their story. We learned that Ashley and John Barron are more than just a couple of faces in the crowd.
Marion Press: Were you both born and raised in Marion?
Ashley: I wasn’t. I was born in Flint. We moved to our family farm when I was three, and that’s where we live now.
John: I moved here in 2nd grade. We lived in Ypsilanti before that.
MP: Did you two meet through school?
Ashley: We didn’t really even know each other at school. Seriously, in our small town never, ever. It’s probably a good thing though!
His cousin was one of my best friends, and my sister was friends with his aunt. So one night, my sister said, “I’m going to go over to my friend’s house.” And his cousin was supposed to be there, so I was going to go over there. And he was there. So that’s when we started talking, being from the same town, so that was kind of cool.
MP: You lived down in Canton, Michigan for a bit. What took you down there, and when did you decide to come home?
Ashley: We were just young; he got a pretty good job down there… We stayed down there for quite a few years – until our kids were about school age – and then the opportunity to come back up to the family farm presented itself. We figured that would be a better place to raise our kids. So our kids started school in Marion, and this is where they’ve been [the whole time]. Emilee is 19, Kamren is 17, Cody is 15, and Kaiden is 10.
MP: What keeps the Barron family busy these days?
Ashley: I feel like the fire department keeps us most busy. Some days we’ll go without calls, but then it’s like feast or famine: When it’s famine, that’s good, but when it’s feast, you’ll have like 5 calls in one day…
MP: How did you get involved with the fire department? When did that start?
John: Almost a year ago. I knew a senior that got in a car wreck, and I actually showed up on scene there. They didn’t have anybody to help, really, and I knew the people involved so I helped out. Anthony Edwards, who works here, told me to put in an [application] here, so I did that. And Ashley joined about a month or two later. Then they sent us to EMR School, and now we’re waiting for EMT School. We have our Fire 1 and 2 classes coming up too.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the fire department?
Ashley: Helping people. I like helping people. I like that it’s ever changing, and it’s never boring. You just never know. We know so many people from the community, so when we’re going into people’s houses, you probably know the person – and that puts them at ease, just seeing a familiar face. Just being able to help; it’s exciting. It’s fun.
MP: And John, I know you help out a lot at the school…
John: I’m just filling in when they need it. There’s not a lot of volunteers out, so if the team needed it, I was there. [I help with] football mostly, but I do some baseball. I just helped out with JV Baseball this year. Football I usually help starting with 7th graders all the way up. I’m kind of like the equipment manager and the medic…
Football, I help out a lot because I love it. And baseball is easy – the kids do all the work! And I usually take basketball season off because it’s ice fishing time!
MP: So fishing keeps you busy too? Has that always been the case?
Ashley: Fishing in general. And hunting. I always went ice fishing in the winter with my dad, Kelly. My brother and dad always ice fished every year.
MP: Did you do a lot of fishing as a kid, John?
John: No, actually I didn’t. [Ashley] got me into it. We fished every once in a while as kids, but not like we do now.
MP: Do your kids like to hunt and fish?
Ashley: Yeah, especially Cody. Cody’s my hunting partner now. We go together sometimes, and we have a really good time. We’re not the quietest, but we like to have fun! And we do see lots of deer.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the Marion community?
Ashley: The small-town. We know everybody. So if my kids are up to something, you’d better believe that I know.
MP: And it must be kind of cool to live on the same farm that you were raised in…
Ashley: It’s cool. I can raise my kids in the country. They can 4-wheel, and dirt bike, and be kids. And I think that maybe they miss out on relationship opportunities that town offers, where town kids kind of get to hang out. But there’s also things that come with that… It’s nice being in that laid back area, where they can be kids a little bit longer.
MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Ashley: My mom, Deb. She had it pretty hard when we were young. She’s always been a strong woman and kept her head up. Very positive. She’s always been a pretty positive person. I’m pretty fortunate to have her as a mother.
MP: You guys have been through some tragedies over the years, where did you find the strength to get through everything?
Ashley: 2012 was a pretty rough year. We had a handicap kid born in 2012, and when he was 3 months old, we had a child [Carter] pass away. It was a pretty rough one.
Our youngest, Kaiden, required so much of that time. With his heart defect he had, it wasn’t just a surgery that fixed him – it was multiple stage surgeries, at a slow rate, or his body wouldn’t be able to adapt to the switch, and he would die. So when all of this occurred, Kaiden had just had his first open heart surgery at 8 weeks old, we were actually preparing for his second one…
So I think, just trying to get him through, helped me get through. Because – at that time – I didn’t have time to focus on that. I had to give 14 meds, 3 times a day to this kid to help him get through these surgeries. And we revisited it later in life, and found the strength to get through.
I look at it differently. I appreciate that I got that time with him, because there could’ve been no time. I appreciate that I was able to spend those 2 years with him. And I have to believe that someday, we’ll all be together somewhere.
MP: What advice would you have for parents who might be going through tough times?
Ashley: Just take it one day at a time, and appreciate the day that you have. If they’re going through something rough, you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. And if today is a good day, just live in that day.
And we still do that with Kaiden. He’s post-transplant, and a lot of people are naïve, and think that post-transplant you’re just fine. You’re not fine. You’re on anti-rejection meds, and you have to have them twice a day at the same time. If you miss a dose, you could go into rejection, and that’s horrible. And these meds also knock his immune system down to where he’s susceptible to cancer; really high risk. You just live in the moment and enjoy it. He’s healthy; we’re healthy, and we’re loving it. He’s doing great.
It made us stronger as a family. They say, when you have a kid like Kaiden, I remember social workers telling me that drives a lot of marriages apart… But I feel like, with Kaiden and Carter, it did the opposite with us. It pushed us together more; we were what each other had since we were teenagers.
When we were young, we may not have been the best role models for kids, but kids should know that you just don’t know where life is going to take you. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t count yourself out, just because you’re not going at the pace of everybody else.
John: I never thought I’d be a firefighter when I grew up, and I’m going to be a medic too. The hospital setting really helped us get into medical. It’s hard to do medical, but when you’ve had 10 years of hospital stays, you [get into it].
John and Ashley Barron have seen their fair share of heartache over the years.