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Burn foundation provides safe place for victims

Gospel concert to raise funds will be Saturday

POSTED: September 22, 2012 11:50 p.m.

When children first come to Camp Oo-U-La, they’re often wearing long pants, a long shirt, a hat — anything to cover up.

They’re used to hiding their burns.

But at the summer camp put on by the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation at Fort Yargo, they feel free, said Angie Roach, a former Hall County firefighter who herself was burned in 2007 while on the job and who now volunteers with the foundation.

“It’s amazing — within a day or two these children are running around in their bathing suits. All their scars are showing,” Roach said. “They don’t have a care in the world. And the camp gives them the confidence to go out in the world and just be who they are and not worry about being burned.”

The camp is one of the biggest programs the foundation sponsors, but it does a lot more, including fire safety education, offering help to burn victims and their families in the hospital and providing support groups.

Saturday, Hall County Fire Services is putting on a gospel concert to raise money for the foundation.

It’s a cause that Hall’s fire marshal, Capt. Scott Cagle, said is very close to his heart. He got involved with the foundation in the 1990s when then-fire marshal David Kimbrell was on the foundation’s board.

Now Cagle sits on the board of directors as vice chairman and he’s helping to put together the event.

For him, the foundation is a way to give back, but also to see a different side of things.

“As firefighters, we see the bad things that happen to these kids,” he said. “... We put them in the back of an ambulance and normally that’s where the story ends for most firefighters. They never get to see the kids years later. Did they live, did they die, how are they doing? But through the burn foundation you’re able to see them at the burn camp, at different activities they hold all year long. And you’re able to see, you know what, they’re doing OK.

“Sometimes they may look a little bit different. They may not have all their fingers and toes, but they’re still kids. And life has gone on.”

The foundation begins stepping in when a burn victim is in the hospital.

Roach said she was introduced to the foundation when she was at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta recovering from the burns she sustained fighting a fire. She was in the hospital 38 days.

“When they come in ... basically they just shower you with love. They don’t push you to talk. They don’t make you have to deal with your injuries,” she said. “They’re just there to support you and your family.”

That support in her case involved bringing her ice cream but also bringing other firefighters by to talk to her who had been through the same thing.

Spending time with others who have similar experiences can be an integral part of the recovery.

Roach said she and her husband attended a seminar with burn survivors from all over the world.

“That helped a lot because I was able to see that even though I was burned, I could still function and be part of society,” she said.

That support for all ages is something the foundation is interested in.

Lori Mabry, special events coordinator for the foundation and a burn survivor, said the foundation is starting a young adult retreat for 18- to 25-year-olds.  Many of those who grow out of camp come back as volunteers, but the foundation wanted to provide an environment focused on continuing support for them, she said.

“(That) helps them face the challenge of becoming an adult but also becoming an adult with the extra challenge of burn injuries,” Mabry said. “And just how that’s going to affect trying to get a job, trying to get into school, relationships, those kind of things.”

The foundation also is starting a family program, providing a weekend camp experience for the victim as well as their siblings and parents.

“... We recognize that the entire family are survivors, because they go through the same thing if not more than the actual patient does,” Mabry said. “So we recognize that and realize that they need support as well. So we’re trying to extend those support programs to adults as well as families.”

Some 85 percent of the funding for the foundation’s programs comes from the Give Burns the Boot drive, in which all of Hall County’s firefighters participate, and 10 percent of that comes directly back to Hall.

With Saturday’s concert, which Cagle hopes to make an annual event, the goal is not only to raise money.

“After working with (the foundation) on some smaller projects, I got to see what they did firsthand and the difference they made,” he said. “And I guess you could say I was hooked.” He’s hoping the concert will raise awareness about the foundation, and get others hooked as well.


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