Campers dressed up and danced the night away at the Central Virginia Burn Camp’s 2022 dance.

Making a difference for Burn survivors

Virginia Chapter and Burn Survivors Foundation Support Camp

The Virginia Chapter of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA)and its 501c3 Burn Survivors Foundation have supported the Central Virginia Burn Camp since 2000, donating $524,400 over the last 21 years. The 2022 Central Virginia Burn Camp was held June 12-18 at Camp Holiday Trails in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

The theme for Central Virginia Burn Camp this summer was superheroes, and I cannot think of a more fitting theme for this wonderful group of people! The campers shine with an inner strength that can only come from going through the darkest of traumas. The staff, counselors, and volunteers who give their time and efforts are some of the most selfless people you will ever meet, doing anything they can to give the campers a perfect week. 

That perfect week included a young burn survivor riding a horse for the very first time, a giggling group of teenage girls getting dolled up for the camp dance and beaming with smiles when one of the girls was asked to slow dance, or the adult burn survivor there as a counselor now who finally had the courage to climb the rock wall for the very first time after years of coming to camp! 

This camp is so much more than just one week out of the summer where kids play together, and adults take a week off from work. Lives are changed here. Burn survivors learn that there are others like them, others who look different, walk differently, but that this is a safe place where those differences do not stand out, and there are no curious stares or uncomfortable questions. This is a place where wigs, scars, and amputations do not get a second glance. The campers can all be free and comfortable in their own skin, no matter what that skin looks like. 

Our entire Central Virginia Burn Camp family works to help these young burn survivors realize that their lives may never be the same, but they can find a new normal and be perfectly happy with their life as a burn survivor. We have had the enormous privilege to watch some of our young burn survivors grow up into outstanding adults and successful members of their communities. It is a gift to see those older burn survivors come back to camp as counselors and help guide the young burn survivors through challenges only they know how to face, and we get to see them face those challenges together. Those younger campers begin holding their heads higher, smiles come more freely, and scars are no longer hidden. That repeating process of growth and strength is truly a beautiful thing. 

I know I speak for the entire Central Virginia Burn Camp family when I say thank you to every single person who makes this camp possible! Because of this camp we know that even during our lowest times, we will rise and come out stronger than before and surrounded in love. 

In sticking with the superhero theme, I leave you with a very fitting quote from the one and only Superman, “I think a hero is an ordinary induvial who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Katy Lawalin is a burn survivor and now burn camp counselor supported by George Wagner, who is an an AFSA National Life Member, AFSA Virginia Chapter member, and director of the Burn Survivors Foundation.


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