Fresno Co. camp helps burn survivors feel accepted

FRESNO, Calif.

Champ Camp is a free camp for burn survivors. It's the largest camp for burn survivors in the United States.

In fact, kids come from all over just to be here, and for many of them, it's the one time of year, they feel accepted.

At Fresno County's Wonder Valley Ranch, you'll find kids between the ages of six and sixteen laughing and enjoying the simple pleasures of summer break.

Here, they're not treated as burn victims, but as survivors.

"They're just another kid and they don't have to worry about it, they don't have to explain themselves and it's a really great opportunity for them to just run around and have fun," Sarah Burton said.

Sarah Burton works for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation.

The non-profit organization has put this free camp on for 26 years, using private donations and dozens of volunteers.

Volunteer counselors include family members, firefighters, and survivors themselves.

"Well, before I came to camp, I thought I was the worst burned person ever because I haven't met anyone else who was burned," Lea Knopf said.

Lea Knopf first came to champ camp at the age of thirteen after she was burned in a house fire. She knows what these kids are going through.

And for campers like, 16-year-old Tremone having survivors to look up is life changing.

"It taught me to look past people's faults and to see them for who they really are on the inside and not the outside," Tremone said.

But, for the younger campers, that key life-long lesson may not be as obvious right now.

Instead, they're pre-occupied with the little things.

"My counselor gave me a bear to sleep with," Govanny said.

"I've been playing. I've been fishing," Jacob said.

Nonetheless, it's a good place to start.

"Cause when you're at champ camp, just hang loose!"

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