A Burn Survivor's Enlightening Vacation Opportunity - My Family Travels
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Two days before my 6th birthday, I was seriously burned in a campfire accident.  This accident occurred at Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe.  Now that I am 17 years old, and able to reflect back on the nightmare of this accident, I can easily say that the best part of it all has been the travel experiences encountered, and the everlasting friends I have met along the way.  Each year, I am provided with opportunities to go to various camps for burn surviving children.  One particular camp that I attend each June is called Champ Camp, sponsored by the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation aka: AARBF.  This camp is located at Wonder Valley Ranch in Sanger, California.

â–º  Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

In 2007, at the age of 14, I was the first and only camper selected from Champ Camp to attend a sister camp in Ontario, Canada, called Camp Bucko.  I was selected to attend this camp based on my leadership personality. I was chaperoned on this trip by one of Champ Camps head counselors “Chief”. Chief and I were flown to Toronto where we were greeted by Toronto’s Fire Chief.  We were given a tour of the city including the Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) which was the world's first sporting arena to feature a fully retractable roof. Our tour ended in a very nice dinner at the CN Tower.  The CN Tower Restaurant is called 360 and not only offers delicious food but also incredible views of the city of Toronto and Lake Ontario.  The revolving restaurant is 1,150 feet above the ground.  Once finished with dinner, we were escorted to our hotel room where we slept well after a long day of travel.  The next morning we were once again greeted by the fire chief who transported us to Camp Bucko which is a 2 hour drive from Toronto.  The drive was one of the most scenic drives I have ever taken.    

The best part about CampBuckowas the scenery.  Ontario, Canadais an incredibly beautiful part of the world.  The air was fresh and clean, the water dark from all of the surrounding metals, but yet so very clean, and the trees seemed to reach the sky. Birds soared in the air, and otters swam freely in the lake.

I learned from this trip that no matter where you go in the burn survivor’s world, camp is a place to connect with people who have been through the same experience, and that meeting other kids who share similar feelings in a camp environment is unforgettable.  Attending this camp gave me a chance to exchange stories and bond with others.  The opportunity to meet new and lasting friends from different cultures was really exciting.  I met kids who spoke French and Polish.   The health providers, firefighters, counselors, burn survivors, and burn support staff were all so very accommodating.  On the last night of camp, Chief and I were honored and were each given a care package filled with maple syrup, Canadian flags, and small Canadian trinkets to bring home.  The only thing that was challenging about this magnificent experience was the time change.  It took a couple of days to acclimate to the 3 hour time difference, and so fatigue was a factor at the beginning of the trip.

 I look forward to the day when I have children to be able to go back to Ontario and share with them the wonders of Ontario that I experienced as a child. 

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1 Reply to “A Burn Survivor’s Enlightening Vacation Opportunity”

  • cvanliew

    I was not able to post a picture.  Each time I tried, I got a message stating that they could not upload the file???  Can I send a picture in?  If so, I will need an address.


    Thank you!

    Chris VanLiew

    [email protected]


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