July 20, 1998
Camp lets burn survivors just be kids
by Deborah Stone
Each year, the Northwest Burn Foundation sponsors a summer camp for children and teens, ages 7-17, who have been burned. Campers come from throughout the Pacific Northwest for the week-long opportunity to 'just be kids' in a therapeutic and recreational environment.
According to Monique Flickinger, Program Director of the Northwest Burn Foundation, camp attendance has increased 15-26% each year since the program began twelve years ago.
Ninety-five children were expected to attend this summer from July 12-18th at Camp Waskowitz, near North Bend.
The camp provides a place for children to interact with others who are also burn survivors, dealing with the physical, social and psychological effects of burn scars.
Campers enjoy hiking, sports, crafts, swimming and other activities without worrying about their appearances.
All camp counselors, including the camp director, are volunteers. Some are firefighters, Harborview Burn Center staff members and even previous campers. They take time off from work to plan, coordinate and participate at the camp.
Woodinville firefighter Pete Briner spent three days at camp last summer and is hoping to repeat the experience this year.
"It's very rewarding to volunteer and see these kids in a setting where they feel totally comfortable," says Briner, a five year veteran of Woodinville's Fire District. "Burns are so traumatic and it's important that these kids have a place where they can be around others who have shared the same experiences."
Briner helped out with archery and crafts activities, but enjoyed just "hanging out with the kids" most.
He says, "I plan to continue volunteering in the years to come because it's such a worthwhile program and I personally enjoy the time getting to know the kids."
Thirteen year old camper Lena Hoff, of Bellevue, is in her seventh year at the camp. She keeps returning because of the friends she's made over the years and the fun they share together.
"I fit in with everyone there because we all have burns and know what it's like to have scars," explains Lena. "I backed into a fireplace when I was three and a half years old and my back got badly burned. I had to be in the hospital for a month, but I don't remember too much about it. People stare at me and ask questions sometimes. It used to bother me, but I'm used to it now. I've adjusted to it. At camp nobody stares or asks questions. It's great!" Lena likes the hikes at camp, as well as crafts and swimming.
She also volunteers at the Northwest Burn Foundation's office in Seattle each summer, helping with the preparations for camp.
The Northwest Burn Foundation is a non-profit, community-supported organization whose mission is to prevent burns and improve the quality of life for burn survivors through programs, education and research.
All of its services are free of charge.
For more information about the camp or other programs, call 206-789-6838.