June 22, 2007
Three years ago, Tyra Owen was camping with her family when a camp fire accident changed her life forever.
"Thirty-seven percent of my body was on fire, was burned. My chest, my arms, my face."
Tyra was able to make a full recovery. But left behind were scars, scars that lead people to stare and to ask questions.
But for one week a year, Tyra does not have to feel those stares, or answer those questions. She can just be herself.
"You get to be around people that are just like you. They each have a different story but you are all similar."
At the Central Virginia Burn Camp, she is one of thirty-six others who all have something in common. They have survived a fire and they are kids who just want to have fun.
"You can cope with what they are going through and you don't have to look around to get a friend," explained Brandon Trice.
Brandon has been coming to the camp for ten years. And while he is having fun doing everything from riding a horse to shooting an arrow, he is also building confidence.
"When we go out, everyone just blends in, you don't have to worry, " smiled Brandon.
"Kids need a place to go where they can just have fun without having to worry about the stares," said co-director Leslie Baruch.
Leslie founded the camp fourteen years ago.
As an occupational therapist at the University of Virginia, she treated both Tyra and Brandon for their burns. Today, she is still helping them heal, but in a different way.
"I think it makes a difference in their overall outlook," she explained. "They know that there is safe place where they are able to build up their self-esteem and self-confidence."
Watching the kids come back every year, growing more and more confident each time, is irreplaceable for Leslie.
And, even though Brandon, who is fifteen years old, will soon be too old to be a camper (the age limit is seventeen), that will not stop him from coming back.
"When I turn seventeen, I want to be a junior counselor," he confided.
The camp is completely free to campers, thanks to donations of time, money, and items for activities such as flying a plane or riding in a boat.
If you'd like to help, or you know someone who would benefit from this camp, call (434) 263-6566.