August 18, 2005
Summer camp can mean a lot of different things to different kids, but for a group of burn survivors, camp means being able to go without the stares, a place where you can just be yourself.
Tucked away in the woods of Keezletown, VA near Harrisonburg is a weeklong camp specially designed for children from the Mid-Atlantic region of the country who have survived being burned.
It's a place where scars mean nothing, and friendships mean everything.
"I love this camp because they make you feel like you're just a normal person," says Camper Tiffany Miller.
Tiffany has no hands and hardly any hair. She was burned in a house fire that killed her mother and three best friends. Only she and her brother survived. The 15-year-old is severely scarred, but at Camp Brethren Woods, so is everyone else.
"It's great because then,you can't really be picked on for it because you?re pretty much just picking on yourselves," says Camper Justin Bender. It's Justin's first year at burn camp, and he fit in right away.
Sean Canepa's burns are from a car fire. It is his fifth year at the burn camp. A major highlight for him is a visit from a group of therapy dogs from Madison County.
"It's fun watching them do tricks and do all these things for me and everybody else here," said Sean.
The weeklong camp is full of special visits and outdoor activities, including caving, swimming, and canoeing, many of which Tiffany is trying for the first time this year.
Camp Counselor Stacey Daniel has watched many kids at the camp grow and mature.
"A lot of them come off the bus shy. They've got their robes, their long-sleeved shirts, their hats pulled down. By the end of the week they've got hats off, long-sleeved shirts off, and they're running around and they're a little more comfortable with their scars, knowing that the scares don't define them."
The best confidence booster to keep them coming back year after year.
"Where I live there are no burned people, so here it actually makes me feel that there's more burned people than [just me] so it feels pretty great."
This is the camp's 17th year. This week about 50 kids between the ages of 7and 17 are attending the camp. Next year the camp hopes for an even bigger turnout.
For more information on the burn camp, log onto www.midatlanticburncamp.org or call (410) 531-5942.