Kids from throughout the state are taking part in a unique camp held by the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety this week.
For 19 years, burn survivors have descended on East Troy for a week to share their stories at the camp for burned and injured youth.
The campers are 7 to 17 years old and their injuries may have brought them to the camp, but many of them leave with lifelong friends who can relate to what they’ve experienced as a burn survivor.
The parade of fire trucks is a huge part of visitors day at the summer camp.
The self-esteem of Jodi Thomas’ daughter, Daja Folds, has continued to skyrocket during the eight years she’s come to the camp.
“My daughter is a track star. They didn’t think she’d walk again, and she’s running,” said Jodi Thomas.
Both Thomas and her daughter were burned in a house fire when Folds was a baby. The 17-year-old said there’s no need to hide her scars at camp and sometimes she forgets they’re there.
“Because I used to be kind of shy. Now I talk to everybody, even people I don’t know,” said Daja Folds.
“It is a support network for our burn survivors. We call it a burn camp family where it is like a big reunion every year,” said Jimmy Ahn, camp director.
“Some of their scars on the inside are worse than the outside,” said Dan Gengler, board president.
The camp is sponsored by the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety, and this year, organizers wanted to help campers deal with the scars that can’t be seen.
“We’ve always done it, but we made a bigger effort this year. We have a child life specialist and an individual to come in from out of state that is an expert at it and did a lot in the form of healing these children for the future,” said Gengler.
Fold won’t be a camper next year; she’s moving on to be a counselor. Thomas said she’s glad her daughter has a place to go and talk to others with similar experiences.
“To show her this isn’t the end, this is just the beginning of something new, of something that you can learn from and other people can learn from. She’s been nothing but a blessing in everyone’s lives she’s touched,” said Thomas.
The camp runs seven days and wraps up Saturday. Organizers are hoping more survivors will join them next year.
For more information on the camp, click here.