Camp for young burn survivors in Ingleside marks 30th year

Camp ‘I Am Me’ provides ‘judgment-free environment with others who have shared similar experiences,’ Illinois Fire Safety Alliance executive director says

YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside once again hosted Camp “I Am Me,” last week marking the 30th year of the camp for young burn survivors.

Hosted by the nonprofit Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, the weeklong program was attended by 50 children and young adults, ages 8 to 20, who sustained burn injuries as children, according to a news release.

“Camp ‘I Am Me’ is a truly unique camp that allows young children who have been burned by scalding water, chemicals, fire, or electricity to be in a judgment-free environment with others who have shared similar experiences,” Illinois Fire Safety Alliance Executive Director Philip Zaleski said in the 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.”

The camp features a wide array of camp activities and lessons – including horseback riding, swimming and archery – as well as specialized sessions that deal with the specific needs of burn survivors, according to the release. One third of camp volunteers are former campers.

“Camp provides a safe place for my son to be with other kids, and adults for that matter, who have also been burned,” one parent said in the release. “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.”

The camp is offered at no-cost to families using donations from individuals, businesses and fire departments to cover the cost of about $2,400 per camper, according to the release.