So, why do I go to camp? It's taking a week away from my husband and kids. It's taking care of someone else's kids and dealing with their issues. It is HARD. It means dealing with homesickness from the campers, the other counselors, and myself. It means eating kosher camp food for a week...yikes. It is exhausting.
I go because of what camp means to me. I attended camp for 3 years as a camper, starting when I was 16, because that's when I found out about it. How I wish I had been able to go sooner! It was so good for me to be around other kids who had been burned. I always had Chandra, but she dealt with her scars so differently. I was always self-conscious, even when I tried so hard not to be. I was bullied for years, teased from my first day of kindergarten through my freshman year of COLLEGE.
Camp let me see other burned kids. It let me see a variety of them, especially kids who were okay with who they were. It helped me learn to be okay with who I am, and to see that while my scars are a part of who I am, they don't define me. They were an injury--I am not an injured person.
I am NOT a victim. I am a survivor. Camp taught me that.
And that's why I go to camp now. Because the other campers and the counselors had such an impact on me as a teenager. Because as corny as it sounds, camp changed my life and my perspective. And somewhere out there, there is probably at least one kid who feels like I did. Someone who is going through what I went through. Someone who is embarrassed, who is teased, and who constantly feels self-conscious. And maybe, just maybe, I can have that same impact on them.
Because life DOES go on. I remember being told in 2nd grade by the popular boy I had a crush on that I would never get married, because no one could possibly love me since I was so ugly because of my scars. I still remember that, although it doesn't hurt me anymore. I remember exactly where we were, the tone of his voice, the look on his face, and the laughter of his friends. But it's not true. Burn scars don't mean your life is over. They don't make you unlovable. They don't prevent you from doing anything you set your mind to doing.
Linda Hansen, the executive director of BRSG, and until this year the camp director, refers to me as one of camp's "success stories". And I am!
I am proud of who I am. And I want every child who comes to burn camp to be proud of who they are, too.