2011 IAFF Annual International Burn Camp

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Burn Campers Say Thanks

Dear Friends,

I want to first start off by thanking you so much for making an opportunity like this possible for me. Everything that you have done has truly been a blessing to me. This camp is so amazing and being able to come to DC for the first time and meet all thse wonderful people has been a great experience. Again you helped me and I just wanted to thank you.

Camper Kyleigh Hill Middleburg, FL (Camp Amigo)

Dear Friends,

Thanks for supporting the IAFF camp. Being at Burn Camp gave me the confidence I never had and I met people from all around the world. Thank you for making this possible. Burn Camp means so much to me. Thank you so much!

Solara Jafaar Hyattsville, MD (Central Virginia Burn Camp)

Dear Friends,

Thank you for supporting the IAFF program. Without you all of this would have never bene possible. I’m emjoy9ing myself very much and I just want to thank you for this opportunity. I am PROUD to call myself a SURVIVOR!

Ernest Mills Tampa, FL (Camp Tequesta)

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to come to this awesome camp. Thanks to you I was able to do the wreath ceremony just like my brother. Thanks to your donations another flower gets to Bloom.

Forever grateful,

Laura Bates Newnan, GA (Camp Oo-U-La)


Special Message

Tony Collins of the Hoosier Burn Camp in Dayton, Indiana sent us this note about participating in this year’s burn camp.

I can’t begin to express our gratitude on behalf of Troi Watts and I for this past week. This is something we’ve been looking forward to for quite some time and we weren’t let down. Everything about this trip was incredible. Troi is one of Hoosier Burn Camps bright young stars and it was such a joy and honor to be able to share this with her.

While the tour of our Nations Capital, and other destinations was the trip of a lifetime, the people are what made this trip so special

You and your entire staff, the IAFF and camp staff were wonderful.

If there were any bumps behind the scenes, nobody noticed it from our end. That is a testament to everyone involved. This was not only Troi’s first time in DC, but also on a plane. When we landed at the airport, Troi said, “That was cool, I think I like flying!”

Watching Troi’s face and excitement throughout our week was contagious and worth every sore muscle, sore feet and sunburn I endured.

She made many new friends and bonds she’ll always treasure.

This letter is short but I could fill a tablet and must get ready to board the bus for our return flight.

Again, I know this may sound cliche, but thank you from Troi and I from the bottom of our hearts.

This is a memory we’ll carry forever.

Friday, Sept. 30

Last Day of Camp

What a great end to an amazing week.

We couldn’t have asked for a better mix of young campers and counselors for the 2011 IAFF International Burn Camp.

Bags packed, photos and yearbooks signed, followed by an incredible slide and video program from Terry and Dylan Hughes, who cut, edited and added all through the night to be ready for the campers ride home.

Lunch loaded, water loaded, and luggage filled with new shirts and some souvenirs from their time in Washington, DC stored on the bus. An amazing, enriching and unforgettable week was had by 43 young, burn survivors and their counselors, bringing the participant number to 86.

It was just as impactful and memorable for the Camp Director and all the staff who donated their time to be on the committee. Each of the sixteen IAFF Foundation’s International Burn Camps has been life changing for attendees; this is made even more special by the many, many people affected by sharing in this experience by donating their time and talents. Early reports indicate that everyone made their flights and connections with out incident.

We even heard from one camper regarding an experience on her way home today: “Hey Tony this is laura. i just need to tell u something that happened at the airport. Me and Angie were going to try to go find our baggage and a women pulled me aside and said i am so proud of u for showing ur scars and i said thank u than she said thank u for showing the scars. Just wanted to let u know this that i would not have the same response to her like i did without u guys PURPLE THUNDER”.

We are honored to provide this opportunity to these wonderful young men and women. We hope that the events of this past week will be invaluable to them as they reach and mature into the future.

They are truly strong, impressive individuals and we would be fortunate if this time in our Nation’s Capital inspired them to continue Mr. Washington’s “great experiment”.

Wednesday, Sept. 28

Turning a Camp into a Carnival!

Written by IAFF staff member Jennifer Grimes

It’s what we feared would happen.

After all the planning for outdoor activities and praying for good weather for camp Carnival Day, we were shaken awake by thunder claps, lightning, and torrential rain. But nature, God, the cosmos or whoever you wish to credit with toying with us turned the clouds from black to fluffy, white ones by set-up time. While the campers and counselors were getting a private tour and lunch at Mount Vernon, our crew began transforming Camp Wabanna into a carnival– one that would knock the camper’s socks off!

At noon, Fantasy World arrived with trucks filled with gigantic inflatables and games, followed by Funtastic Food trucks carrying supplies for making cotton candy, freshly squeezed lemonade, and funnel cakes – then the Kona Ice truck equipped with ices and Hawaiian leighs showed up in its colorful truck. The parade of fun and fructose was welcomed by a team of eager fire fighters, IAFF staff members, and friends in the burn community with sleeves rolled up and ready to get to work.

Anne Arundel County Fire Fighters, BWI Fire fighters, Baltimore County Fire Fighters, DC Fire Fighters, and Prince William Fire Fighters all joined in to set up a 4-person jousting ring, 30 foot inflatable boot camp competition, human foosball, bungee run, dunk tank, balloon pop, golf games just to name a few. Drenched in sweat and throwing back gallons of water, we looked around  and saw a real carnival.

While we waited, fire fighters challenged IAFF staff to a friendly competition in the boot camp course while other folks jumped on the joust or bungee run and before we knew it, everyone was in full play mode.

Just in time—the buses round the bend to see their quiet campground on the Chesapeake Bay converted into a fun park. DC Firefighters Burn Foundation brought their camp kayaks and diligently remained at the waterfront to give orientation and fit everyone with lifejackets as the rest of the fire fighters manned the events or played with the campers.

Families came out, more fire fighters showed up on choppers, even the campground staff brought their family to play with the campers. In the middle of the fun, Anne Arundel sent a rig out to prepare for a Medstar helicopter to land. After it settles for an hour or so, it takes off again with our camp photographer for some aerial shots.

The campground has a reputation for its beautiful scenery—but the best shot was of the campers and counselors as they lined up to spell out the letters that they’ve been shouting all week “give me an I, give me an A, give me an F, give me an F. What’s that spell? FIRE FIGHTERS!!!”.

As we continued to play and eat funnel cakes, the camp DJ, Buddy, rocked the whole campground. The kids danced and beckoned to get the counselors on the dance floor to learn the latest moves. As the sun turned the skies and water pink, we began to dismantle the carnival while the campers and counselors joined Dave Borowski to hear his inspirational life story and get a signed copy of his book, Flicker of Hope.

Campers thought their day of play was over until the boom of fireworks overhead lit up the black sky and water. Professional fireworks were kept as a special surprise by the area’s Federal Fire Fighters who contracted a professional agency to give the kids a grand finale to their big day. The ding of the dunk tank, peals of laughter, and the roar of the crowd as groups competed with each other were the sounds of success to the IAFF members, staff, and members of the burn community who worked hard for months to create a memorable event for the kids.

Thanks to everyone for pulling it off for these kids and coming out to play!


Surprise – a show like no other

Written by Steve “Trip” Peck

Courtesy of yet another group of fire fighters, the Federal Fire Fighters, we were entertained by a fireworks show like no other.  The only problem with the display was we were not able to agree on only one word to describe the action.

Here are some of the descriptive words that were shared by the campers:  “awesome,” “funtabulous,” “mesmerizing,” “spectacular,” ”amazing,” “incredible,” “phenomenal,” “unbelievable,” “wow,” “boom,” ”epic,” ”fantastic,” “indescribable,” “explosive,” “colorful,” “extra-luminescence,” “impressive,” “cool,” “dazzling,” “stupendous,” “ecstatic,” “chest-thumping,” “fantastic,” “outstanding.”

And one camper said “this beat out Disneyworld!”

Thanks to the federal fire fighters for a great show!

Tuesday, Sept. 27

Seeing American History

Burn campers got a first-hand glimpse of the meeting place of the federal government  by touring the United States Capitol Tuesday morning. They saw many statues of famous Americans from every part of this wonderful country. They walked in the footsteps of statesmen like John Adams and Henry Clay, and to the place where Barack Obama took his first steps as president of the United States.

The campers had lunch at the Rayburn Building. The event was hosted by the DC Fire Fighters Local 36 and the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. Ken Farmer, Chief, from the National Fire Academy United States Fire Administration, greeted the campers and shared his personal experiences on the importance of prevention, survivor support and advocacy for policy and code change. Ed Smith, president DC Fire Fighter Local 36 and Chief Gerhart, of the DC Fire Department also spoke to teens.

For a special treat, several of the burn campers had a Congressional representative from their district join them for lunch. After lunch, burn campers walked to Fourth Street to take a picture in front of the US Capitol with Rescue 1 as an additional back drop.

The afternoon was packed with activities.

Burn campers traveled on Martz buses over to the White house for a walk by, quick photo, and then headed over to IAFF Headquarters to meet all the staff who make the IAFF what it is today.

Special permission was granted from the Secret Service to allow all the campers and counselors to go on the rooftop and check out the spectacular view of the White House and the National Mall.

The events of the day weren’t lost on burn campers like Joey from Iowa where he shared some history about this great country. He mentioned George Washington was a surveyor at the age of 15 and that Abraham Lincoln was picked on as a child for being so different. He stated it was so important to remember the past and understand how it can relate to them, even today.

IAFF headquarters visit

The burn campers took over IAFF headquarters Tuesday afternoon. The 43 teens took a break from their jam-packed sight-seeing schedule to tour the IAFF in Washington, DC and shared their experience with staff.

“This has been a really good experience because you get to be in a place where people aren’t looking at you weirdly because of your burns. Everyone is the same,” says Joey, a camper from Muscatine, Iowa.

Burn campers had an opportunity to visit each IAFF department and to learn all about the services and programs that the organization offers to its members.
Burn campers were prepared for their IAFF visit. All of them wore black IAFF Foundation shirts and lanyards bearing the IAFF logo Tuesday.

They listened to IAFF assistant to the general president Lori Moore-Merrell who told them that they can make a difference in the world.

“The tour was awesome,” says Cindy Payne, IAFF staffer, who guided one group around headquarters. “It is really good to have the kids come to the building and just to see how excited they are about being at camp. Their energy level is high from the beginning to the end.”

Campers had a chance to visit the General President’s suite where they took photos of the MDA bike and a portrait of a fire fighter’s boots outside the boardroom. Counselors were over the moon to be able to visit General Secretary Treasurer Thomas Miller’s office and some even took turns sitting in his chair taking photos.

“It’s pretty cool and very comfortable seats,” says Jeff, a counselor, from Moncton, NB.

Another highlight for counselors like Shane from Troutman, NC were excited to see a new version of the SCBA apparatus (flat pack) in the Health and Safety Department. He says the flat pack he has to wear back home weighs a ton. The newer ones are sleeker and more streamlined.

Jay, a camper from Colpitts Settlement, NB, says he was surprised to learn that fire fighters had a lot more responsibility than just putting out fires. “They do a lot of water rescues,” he says.

Camp counselor Erica from Halifax, Nova Scotia says she never thought she’d have an opportunity to tour the IAFF and couldn’t wait to tell her fire fighter colleagues  back home about her visit. However, the best part of her experience this week is being able to interact with the campers. “The kids have been amazing and this is a good opportunity for them to be just kids and to enjoy themselves,” she says.

Taylor from Tucson, AZ describes the nation’s capital as a beautiful city with so much history. She was still excited about seeing the statue of Abraham Lincoln. She and her grandparents liked watching the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  “Now I can say that I’ve made it to Washington,” she says.

Hard Rock ROCKS!

After touring and eating lunch at the US Capitol, a group photo with Rescue 1 in front of the Capitol, and a tour of IAFF headquarters burn campers headed over to Hard Rock Cafe for a good meal in a cool place. It gave the campers a chance to relax and talk about everything they had done during the day.

Prior to eating at the Hard Rock, campers shopped at gift stores to get souvenirs for family and friends. After dinner, everyone headed down to the staircase for a large group photo.  Chief of staff, Pete Gorman and Chief of Operation, Jim Lee, joined the campers and led them on the IAFF chant!

For over 15 years, dinner and t-shirts have been provided by the Anne Arundel County, MD Burn Foundation and Anne Arundel County, MD Firefighters Local 1563.

Today’s events allowed several of the campers to experience and enjoy sights and places they may have never had a chance to see or enjoy otherwise. They all were very interested in the tours and information. This was an experience they will carry with them forever.

Monday, Sept. 26

A Tour of Arlington National Cemetery

Burn campers had a jam-packed schedule Monday with visits to Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Meyer station, and a camp fire.

Monday morning we were fortunate to tour Arlington National Cemetery and share in the history behind all of those who gave so much and continue to give for our freedom.

The broad mix of children made every one of us proud throughout the event.  Campers Joey  from Muscatine, IA; Laura from Newnan, GA; Willie from Buffalo MN; and Solara from Hyattsville, MD, were selected to lay the IAFF Foundation’s Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It allowed us to show our respect and reverence in return for all that has been sacrificed by our military and their families.

We are grateful to General President Schaitberger for his time and support as he joined us at the wreath laying. Before the ceremony, every camper spoke with General President Schaitberger as he expressed his support for the International Burn Camp.

After our meeting with the General President our group gave silent support to those four campers laying the wreath, from the viewing area at the tomb. All were impressed with the precision and structure of the Changing of the Guard ceremony presented by The Old Guard.

Burn campers visit Fort Meyer Station

Written by: President Jim Dansereau of Fort Myer, Va. Local F253

The International Burn Camp got a small taste of military life on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Meyer, Va. Monday afternoon.  The Campers were welcomed by the Deputy Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Blair, Command Sergeant Major Necati Akpinar, Director of Emergency Services Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Sheppard, members of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp, and of course the fire fighters from Local F-253.  This is the eighth year that Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall served as host for burn campers.

The Fife and Drum played a welcoming salute while the campers got off the buses.

Short welcoming remarks where shared by all leaders and a special coin presentation was awarded to one camper from the United States and Canada.

It was a great visit and a good time was had by all.

Campfire Entertainment from around North America

We ended our day with songs and laughter around the campfire.  Campfire Showcase is an opportunity for all to share a song or skit from their local camps and to teach others new things so they can take it back to their camps.

Seven teams performed skits full of memories from all the adventures that campers had Monday and some campers added a sampling from their home camp. Campers sang songs about a caboose, a hippo, a frog, a little red wagon and a duck.

Also burn campers had a chance to express themselves creatively. On Monday night campers worked on decorating canvas bags with glitter pens and markers focusing on things that were important to them. We have some real artists among us.

Seeing the campers interact with each other, sharing and working together as a unit was great to see. Watching friendships being built was awesome.

This week is about giving the campers a chance to learn, grow and express themselves. It seems like they are off to a great start.
What is in store for the last campfire?

We don’t know, but keeping reading this week’s blog adventures of burn campers to find out.


Sharing our Memories

Follow the activities of our campers on Flickr and on YouTube. You can also follow their adventures on Twitter: @IAFFNewsDesk

Fun at Nationals Park

Sunday, Sept. 25

Sunday was a full day for burn campers.

Open ceremonies were held at Arlington, Va. Station House #5 where kids got to see a Fire Ops 101 presentation.

They capped off the day by attending a Washington Nationals game where campers and counselors watched the home team beat the Atlanta Braves on the last game of the home season.

For many of the campers this was the first ball game they ever attended.

“It’s amazing,” says Hannah, a camper from Wando, SC .“Everything has been wonderful.”

And the counselors had a blast too.

“I am tickled pink that we are in DC watching a baseball game with Rico Suave, Ratch, and Hannah,” says Sheila, a counselor from Mt. Pleasant, SC.

They enjoyed first class seating in the Diamond Club which also offers all you can eat gourmet food, indoor and outdoor seating.

“Free dove bars are awesome,” says  David, a counselor from  Hendersonville, TN .

After the game the campers got to run the bases and meet the players. While waiting outside for the bus several campers got souvenirs signed by Tim Milone and other players. One camper even caught a foul ball.  It was fun for all.

“It is really nice here at stadium and it is my first baseball game,” said Tamarah, a camper from Jamesville, NY. I’m having fun.”

We Are The Lucky Ones!

Saturday, Sept. 24

Many, many people remember fondly, their childhood camp experiences and friendships.

Everyone arriving at the IAFF Foundation’s International Burn Camp have already had the joy of a week at burn camp this year, mostly summer and few winter camps. Now, this week, forty-three exceptional young burn survivors, along with a counselor representing their regional camps have travelled from all over the United States and Canada to attend.

The campers are all here for a gret week of bonding, team building, and peer support. We have already heard campers say how excited they are to be here.

The camp is in great new location this year and follows a new format. The IAFF Foundation’s International Burn Camp is getting to be more like “summer” camp, at a beautiful facility, Camp Wabana, on Chesapeake Bay in Edgewater, Maryland. the campers and counselors in the first few hours have already seen deer, gophers and porcupine, all while doing the usual “getting to know you” camp actitivities such as name games and skits.

We hope you will follow us all week as we move forward with the IAFF Foundation’s International Burn Camp.


Friday, Sept. 23

Getting Ready for Burn Camp

We will be reporting from the IAFF’s International Burn Camp all week long. Expect to see videos and photos from our Opening Ceremony, Tour of the US Capitol and more. Also follow the IAFF’s social networks on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

The Jacksonville Fire Fighters Association Local 122 is helping to make this year’s camp special. They brought the “jambulance”, a retired vehicle that will be used for camp support next week. Take a look at the “jambulance” in the YouTube video below. You can also view all videos taken at this year’s camp on the IAFF Foundation YouTube’s playlist.

Thursday, Sept. 22

16th Annual International Burn Camp Kicks Off

For 16 years, the IAFF Burn Foundation has brought young survivors together to form new bonds at its annual international Burn Camp.

Starting Saturday, teens ages 13 to 15 will spend one week in Washington, DC to share their experiences at this year’s camp. They come from across the US and Canada.

The teens are paired with a professional fire fighter and camp counselor from a regional burn camp on their visit.

The IAFF is truly excited to host the teens and expect this year’s burn camp will be the best yet. You can see all the fun activities  planned for the burn camp.

“Fire fighters bear witness every day to the trauma caused by burns, and they know that healing takes time. That’s why the IAFF Foundation is committed to providing this therapeutic experience for burn survivors each year,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said.

One counselor a Brevard County Fire Rescue Fire fighter/paramedic says the burn camp is the one place where children can still be kids after suffering from fire tragedies.

The IAFF Burn Foundation has awarded $2.7 million to burn research, making it one of the largest sources for burn research grants.