While taking a break in between calls at the fire station, the crew and I were reading the fliers on the table and I happened to pick up an IFSA newsletter. It had mentioned that they were in search of more volunteers to become camp counselors. I was looking for an opportunity to be part of an organization in the fire service and saw what this camp was. I instantly knew that I wanted to get involved! I thought to myself that you never really hear anything positive about the aftermath of someone getting injured from burns, but here was this organization showing the bright side of life and how I can give back to the kids that I help in my field. At first, I was really worried about going but once I got there, I was blown away on how great this program is and how amazing everyone was. I have gone back every year since – 26 years!
At the end of camp, I found myself asking, have I done enough for the kids. The memory that I will never forget is when I realized that I HAD done enough for those kids after those amazing seven days. I met a young man in my cabin and there was an instant friendship. I did not know until years later, this young man felt that I saw him and not his scars. As I walked him to the bus to bring him home, he started to cry asking not to leave and if he could stay at camp for one more week. I was able to get him on the bus and he put his hand on the window and continued to cry. My feelings got the best of me and I put my hand up to his and started to cry. That is how I knew I did enough! I am only there for those kids and everything else is extra. When I am at camp, everything else fades until you leave.
Camp is a two-way street – the campers get something out of it and volunteers do too. For the kids, they get to be in an environment where they can be themselves and not just the kid that has burn scars. They are just regular kids that were delt a bad hand. What volunteers get out of the program is the joy of providing this environment for these amazing kids. One thing that I personally noticed about this is that I no longer notice people that might look “different” from others. I see the person, not the difference.
Everyone should get involved because no matter how or what you give, whether it be funds, resources, or gifts, you get more back in love from all of our young survivors.