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FUTURE PRIEST'S JOURNEY IS A ROAD OF INVOLVEMENT.

Byline: VICTORIA GIRAUD People and Places

Rick Byrum is a man who likes to get involved.

Professionally he's a location manager in the entertainment industry. In his spare time he's the captain of the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station's volunteer search and rescue team, and the ``founding father'' of the young people's Clarita Awards for the Santa Clarita Film and Entertainment Bureau.

``We're created to relate to each other,'' Rick declares, ``to enrich that experience with other people, to draw from their knowledge to enhance our own lives, to give strength and courage to each other.''

Because of his beliefs, Rick has studied for the priesthood for a number of years, and will be ordained in about 18 months as an Episcopal priest. ``I've taken the long road,'' he reflects.

This route included an inspirational two years in Africa, a continent he hopes to see again. ``I'm looking for a career to go back to Africa. I'd like to be a part of that changing world.''

In the early 1980s, Rick was a missionary in the jungles of Ghana, involved in basic health care, delivering babies, for instance, and enjoying ``what a medic does.'' He went to share his knowledge and to help as long as he was needed.

He particularly remembered an incident when he was summoned to a small jungle hut by the mother of a young girl to help her daughter recover from a drug overdose. The girl's illiterate parents had given her a two-week prescription for worms all in one dose, and she was in convulsions.

Using his then-limited knowledge of Ashanti, the native language, Rick soon deduced that the girl needed her stomach pumped, and had to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. With none nearby, the challenge was to find a vehicle to transport the girl. As fate would have it, news came of a van that was available a few miles away. The girl was carried through the jungle to the vehicle. When they got to the hospital, the girl's heart stopped, but cardiopulmonary resuscitation saved her just in time.

A year later he saw the girl, who remembered him. ``You were the one who saved me,'' she told him.

After Rick contracted typhoid and malaria, ``I had to come back (to the United States) to get my strength back.''

For the past 15 years he's worked in the entertainment industry. He was a location manager for ``Knight Rider,'' ``Star Trek, The Next Generation'' and for Nickelodeon's ``The Secret World of Alex Mack.'' More recently he's been finding locations for the Discovery Channel.

Despite his busy life, Rick looked for a creative way of working with kids, and developed hands-on workshops for young people interested in the film industry, an idea that resulted in the annual Clarita Awards.

``People who work in the film industry can teach young kids what filming is all about, and help them explore leadership skills, teamwork and self-confidence,'' he explained and added that it also taught them ``how to be creative, how to move past the frustrating parts.''

The Clarita Award, like a junior Academy Awards ceremony for the resulting films, are held in the spring (May 13 is tentatively scheduled) at Six Flags California's Magic Mountain. Awards in a variety of categories - director, producer, actor, story, costume, sound effects, etc. - are given by celebrities, and 15 seconds of film is shown for each category.

``People are amazed,'' Rick said of the subject matter dealt with in these films, which have included films on life-threatening disease and homosexuality. ``Some stories are heart-wrenching; (the youngsters are) grappling with relationships, growing up.''

About nine years ago Rick joined the Sheriff's Department as a reserve deputy for the volunteer search and rescue team. He is also part of ``Hug a Tree,'' an educational outreach program for schools and Scouting troops to teach young people awareness and basic survival skills they might need if they are ever lost while hiking.

Born in the San Gabriel area of Southern California, Rick has lived in Castaic the past nine years and is married to Anita. Despite his active and fulfilling lifestyle, the tug of Africa is still there. It's a lure that's moved him since he was in second grade watching movies and enjoying ``National Geographic.'' Luckily, Anita is open to his passion.

``I enjoy the medical side of things (he's qualified as an emergency medical technician),'' Rick declares, ``and I'd like to get back to Africa in some aspect of medical work.''
COPYRIGHT 1998 Daily News
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 20, 1998
Words:751
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