University of North Carolina Hospitals
North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center CAMP CELEBRATE
Of the more than 900 burn patients treated each year at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, approximately a third are children. Although the physical healing for a burn injury may last weeks or months, emotional and psychosocial recovery can be lifelong. Many burn survivors face having to develop a new self image and/or feelings of positive self-esteem while struggling to gain the acceptance of their peers at a time in life that is already filled with such challenges.
Children who have suffered burn injuries share the same curious and adventuresome spirit possessed by all youngsters. Eager to learn and enjoy life, they often seek the approval of others to confirm their acceptance as individuals. Peer support has been identified as one of the strongest and most meaningful resources for burn survivors, as they feel that those who have not been burned cannot truly understand. Camp Celebrate offers these young survivors the opportunity to meet others like themselves, to share their personal experiences in a safe and fun environment and to gain a real understanding that they are not alone.
Camp Celebrate is open to pediatric burn survivors in North Carolina, regardless of where they are treated. Each year, survivors age 7 to 15 from throughout the state are invited to a special weekend of camp. For those 16 and 17, a “counselor in training” program is available to transition young survivors from the role of camper to the excitement and responsibility of returning as adult volunteers/counselors.
At camp, campers are assigned to cabins according to age and gender. Each cabin has a Cabin Leader who oversees the cabin group, and each child is assigned a counselor who is responsible for ensuring their well-being throughout the weekend. This camper-counselor relationship has proven to be both therapeutic for the campers and rewarding for the counselors. Age appropriate activities are offered throughout the weekend and include, boating, fishing, swimming and so much more. Families are invited to come together for a huge picnic on the last day of camp where they enjoy sharing a meal, hearing about the excitement of the weekend and interacting with other families who all have survived a burn experience.
Campers participate in activities designed to foster interactions and opportunities that promote learning, personal growth, and success. The children are exposed to a therapeutic and educational environment through play. In this way, campers are encouraged to learn and support one another while having fun in the process. The support offered by Camp Celebrate personnel and fellow campers alike promotes the development of each child's concept of individuality while simultaneously emphasizing group participation. The attention and encouragement, together with the interaction with peers who share many of the same concerns and needs, serve to promote and strengthen each child's concept of self-worth.
Camp Celebrate started in 1982 as the very first camp for burned children in the United States. It is an annual event for which the planning and coordination necessary to ensure a successful camp involves the efforts of many people throughout the year. Under the guidance of the Pediatric Aftercare Coordinator at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, a Camp Celebrate planning committee, consisting of members of the multidisciplinary burn team and a variety of volunteers from across the state, collaborates and organizes the various activities offered and mobilizes the many resources necessary to provide a safe and meaningful camp experience. Former campers now return as adult volunteers, serving as counselors and mentors, sharing their experiences and offering hope and demonstrating a positive outlook of life ahead with scars. Campers experience a strong sense of support and caring. Volunteers experience the satisfaction of playing an important role in the growth of these children and often a new found sense of how to deal with their own adversity. Most volunteers report getting much more out of camp than they feel they give.
In most recent years, different members and organizations of the fire service throughout North Carolina have become significant partners in the planning and support of Camp Celebrate. Through donations, resources and most importantly, time and energy, many young burn survivors and many North Carolina fire fighters share a bond that one has to experience to understand.
While Camp Celebrate has been the flagship aftercare program at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center for many years. Fortunately, it is no longer the only support opportunity for burn survivors in North Carolina. Burn Aftercare is an established part of the many services provided and now includes numerous support programs for adults as well as children. For more information about the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center and Aftercare programs for burn survivors, please go to www.ncjayceeburncenter.org