Counselor at camp for kids with burn injuries pays it forward

EAST TROY, Wis. — A woman who suffered severe burns as a child is returning as a counselor at a summer camp aimed at giving other kids with burn injuries a sense of normalcy.

Tanya Bolchen suffered third-degree burns when an air conditioner exploded inside her grandparents’ Boscobel home when she was just four months old. For years afterward, she felt no one could understand life with burn scars — that is, until a UW Health nurse told her about the Summer Camp for Burn-Injured Youth.

The weeklong camp features many of the traditional summer camp activities and gives kids a chance to interact with others with similar conditions.

“It’s a place you can just go be a kid for a week,” Bolchen told UW Health. “No one’s staring at you, you just get to do camp stuff, there’s horseback riding, (a) climbing tower, swimming, and it’s just a community, it’s your family.”

The event is returning to its full in-person format for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. A smaller, two-phase version was held last year; in 2020, the event moved online.

It is also seeking volunteers; to learn more, visit the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Charitable Foundation’s website.

Registration is encouraged by July 31.