FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A local burn survivor says he had an “amazing time” at the BC Burn Camp in Squamish last month.
Samuel Arilidge, who will soon be turning eight years old, attended the camp for the first time from July 15th to 21st and says he can’t wait to return next year.
Arlidge is currently staying with his grandparents in Fort St. John while his mother is in the hospital in Vancouver and got to visit her for a couple of days before heading to the Burn Camp.
Camp councillor and local firefighter Brent Morgan accompanied Arilidge to Vancouver for the visit and eventually to Squamish to meet this year’s Burn Camp participants.
Arilidge’s family told Energeticcity.ca that they appreciate what the camp does for young burn survivors throughout the province and the Yukon.
“It’s like a second family [for those that attend],” Morgan said.
The week-long camp costs around $3,000 per kid, which is covered by donations from fire departments across the province. The camp is all-inclusive and is for kids ages six to 18.
“You can’t explain [the camp] unless you actually go to it,” Morgan said.
“It’s just a remarkable time to see these kids who have gone through so much in their life that most people our age haven’t gone through something that traumatic and to see how happy they are, how well they bounced back from camp.”
Morgan says some of the kids build lifelong friendships over the six days they’re in camp, which is jam-packed with activities.
Arilidge said his favourite activities were white water rafting and swimming.
A new addition to camp week was an opportunity for the kids to hear from Erik Bjarnason, a firefighter from North Vancouver.
“He was part of North Shore Search and Rescue, and he got stuck up on Mount Logan in a storm of a century and lost his fingers,” Morgan explained.
“He retrained himself to be a firefighter again, and everyone’s asked, ‘Hey, what happened?’ and Erik started telling his story.”
The counsellors and organizers decided to start setting up times for Bjarnason to tell the camp participants his story. He also encouraged them to share their stories when they were ready.
“Kids have started telling their stories more, and some have never told it before until they’re at camp, and they feel so comfortable with this family they’ve created that they tell their story.”
Counsellors sometimes have kids pull them aside and confide in them, said Morgan.
“When you get the privilege to go to this, you feel quite honoured that they put the trust in you to tell their story, to start them on their healing process.”
Once the kids are too old to attend the camp as campers at 18, they can return as junior counsellors to help the more senior counsellors until they hit 25. At that point, they can apply to become adult burn survivor counsellors.
Burn Camp is sponsored by fire departments across the province that support the Burn Fund throughout the year.
“Anything they’re missing? It’s 100 per cent taken care of, said Morgan.
To donate and for more information, visit the Burn Fund website or call the local fire department at 250-785-4333.
For Morgan’s story on what brought him to volunteer for Burn Camp, click here.