Champ Camp for Burn Survivors

June 17, 2009 8:35:52 PM PDT
Summer camp is an age old tradition that has expanded to include youngsters with specialized needs. Here in the Central Valley here is a camp nestled in the foothills of Fresno County that is helping kids deal with emotional and physical scars. What's the mud pit for? Fun! And seeing who can win the game of touch ball. Kids-Against-the-Counselors in a mud pit are just what summer camp is all about! That's what one counselor told us, "What kid doesn't want to play in the mud? I'm an adult and I still like to play in the mud!" No mercy for the spectators either. Everyone gets dirty at Champ Camp.

They are typical kids covered in mud but back around the pool you can see what unites them from age 5 to sixteen. These campers are all burn survivors and they carry all kinds of scars, those you can see and those you can't see. Just like a number of Champ Camp counselors like Jared Trice who is also a burn survivor, "They're able to see that I'm more confident, more willing to do things. So they start doing more things, being more confident."

The week long camp is free to kids from all over California. The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation puts it on with the help of volunteers from burn survivors to firefighters. Chris Bridger a Clovis firefighter who told us being part of Champ Camp helps him too, "We're there right after it happens or for the emergency part of it but we never see 'em progress and go past it."

The healing goes both ways. Last year Emily Schoettler of Madera reluctantly came to champ camp, thinking it would be lame, "I came last year and I really, really liked it. And I thought I'd come again this year and I've been having a really great time."

We found a small crowd of boys checking out the tiny frogs they discovered near the swimming pool. They're taking in nature and learning to embrace who they are and to adorn it. Their burn scars are easily seen and just as easily embellished with temporary, tattoos like Gabriel's, "Where'd you get those tattoos? I asked. He answered, "We had a pool party yesterday."

From the retired cops and firefighters on Harleys who help fund the camp to the many volunteers who give up their vacation week to offer a week of freedom and friendship for one-hundred-forty kids every single one is happy to be where they are. Those on the mend in mind and spirit like Emily are thankful for the new friends that are like she is, "It's nice to come here and see people who, like, have shared the same things that you have."

In a setting like eastern Fresno county's 'Wonder Valley Ranch' it's hard to feel different when you're among those who truly know what it means to be a burn survivor.

Check out the links in the this story for information on the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation as well as the people who make champ camps happen across the state of California, including the Central Valley.

Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation
http://www.aarbf.org
Links to Other Burn Sites
http://www.aarbf.org/links/links.htm

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