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Have you ever had one of those moments where your heart just sank? Even without seeing it for myself, just knowing that a certain thing exists, it made my heart sink under the weight of its implications — and it only took two words: children’s ward. I don’t know if that’s an official term or just the choice of words used by the speaker, but the effect was there. We were listening to someone speak about the NC Jaycee Burn Center when the gravity of these two words buried me in the reality of the moment.
“Of the more than 900 burn patients treated each year at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, approximately a third are children.” (1)
Burn injuries aren’t just physical; there is also a tremendous psychological and emotional impact. No child should ever face such difficulty. Not even a parent myself, still I was deeply moved; how much more so the parents of these children? The closest I can relate is in remembrance of the feeling of helplessness before a loved one in pain. That was when my passion for the NC Jaycee Burn Center really hit home. Soon after, I heard about this place called “Camp Celebrate”.
Just as two words can heft such sorrow, these two words can inspire renewed hope. Camp Celebrate is an aftercare program that helps to heal the more subtle wounds of self-image and self-esteem that come with burn injuries. It began in 1982 for burn survivors aged 7 to 15. The way I understand it, Camp Celebrate helps the children get back to being children. Jaycees, firefighters, volunteers, Burn Center staff and teenage burn survivors come together to provide a positive atmosphere to heal the spirits of these children and offer a sense of a return to normalcy.
“Activities include swimming, canoeing, arts and crafts, fishing, an annual Sunday family picnic, as well as an opportunity to meet other kids who share the experience of having been burned. A number of campers return year after year, and some have returned as adults to serve as counselors and share their experiences and knowledge with the children.” (2)
Camp Celebrate is free for the children, and all young burn survivors in North Carolina are welcome. It truly is a place of hope and celebration where the children can get together surrounded by their peers to share their stories and to re-engage life.