Young Burn Survivors Get Royal Treatment in Local Area


(Monday, October 1, 2007 8:02 AM EDT)

The 43 teenagers who congregated at Fort Myer's firehouse on Sept. 26 were each from a different part of the country, and had different upbringings and interests.

But they all share one thing in common - they all are burn survivors.

For 12 years, the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) has selected young burn survivors (ages 13 to 15) to participate in the National Children's Burn Camp, which brings them to the local area for a week-long tour of the nation's capital and surrounding areas, including a visit to Fort Myer.

Fort Myer firefighters belong to IAFF Local F-253, which has hosted the burn camp for the past four years, giving the teens an opportunity to interact with the installation's firefighters and learn about the area.

“The chance to work with these children is a personal high,” said IAFF Local F-253 president James Dansereau. “Everyone in our organization looks forward to it.”

Very often, firefighters do not get to see the people they've saved, so getting the chance to talk to these young burn survivors is a special experience, he said.

“They get to see that it's really worth it,” said Linda French, coordinator of the IAFF Burn Foundation.

This year, Fort Myer entertained camp participants with performances by the Fife and Drum Corps and the U.S. Army Drill Team. A tour of the Caisson Stables also was on the agenda.

In addition to Fort Myer, the participants also visited the Capitol, the White House, the monuments and museums. Four participants were given the honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns when the group visited Arlington National Cemetery.

“The vast majority of people don't get to do this,” said Jack Sample, one of the burn survivors who participated in the wreath-laying ceremony. “It's ironic because burn survivors usually don't get to do things because of [lack of] confidence. But now I get to do things that other kids don't get to.”

Generally, burn camps are like traditional summer camps, but counselors also work with campers on self-esteem issues, how to approach relationships and how to live life normally.

For many burn survivors, burn camps have been a way for them to find companionship and regain confidence.

“[Other burn survivors] know what you're going through,” said Jessica Martinez, a survivor from Washington state.

“You don't meet a lot of people who are burned until you go to burn camp,” said Brittany Bearden, who is from Oklahoma and was burned by hot water as a 10-month-old. “I've been going for eight years.”

Burn survivors Jack Sample, Quran Wilson, Brittany Beardon and Jessica Martinez participated in a host of events, including a trip to Fort Myer and a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, during their visit to Washington as part of the National Children's Burn Camp.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

Return to index of articles