Illinois’ camp for young burn survivors, Camp ‘I Am Me,’ provides fun friendship and support

Weeklong overnight program hosted by Illinois Fire Safety Alliance at no cost to participants

INGLESIDE – From June 19-25, nearly 50 children who have been affected by burn-related injuries are participating in the 31st annual Camp “I Am Me.”

Hosted by the nonprofit Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, the weeklong overnight program takes place at the YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside.

As a result of the generosity of individuals, groups, businesses and fire departments, the program is offered to families at no cost.

“Camp ‘I Am Me’ is a truly unique program that allows children 8 to 20 years old who have been burned by scalding water, chemicals, fire or electricity to have a camping experience in a judgment-free environment with others who have gone through similar experiences,” Philip Zaleski, executive director of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, said in a news release. “Through our work and coordination with hospital burn units, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and fire departments across the state, we hope to reach all burn-injured children in Illinois so they can benefit from this camp.”

Campers can participate in nearly 50 activities, including horseback riding, swimming and archery. The activities that may have the biggest impact are those designed specifically for emotional healing, according to the release. Through character development, journaling and therapeutic sessions that help build self-esteem, the children are able to take advantage of unique resources often not available in their hometowns.

“Camp provides a safe place for my son to be with other kids, and adults for that matter, who have also been burned. This provides a sense of belonging and a feeling that he isn’t alone in dealing with his scars. Camp “I Am Me” pushes my son to reach beyond himself and to take chance,” a parent of a camper noted.

Members of the fire service and medical community, as well as educators and others from the private sector, volunteer an entire week of their time to make for a one volunteer to one camper ratio.

For information about the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance’s Camp “I Am Me,” additional survivor support programs and fire safety and burn prevention resources, visit www.IFSA.org.