Camp for Burn Victims: ‘You’re Not Alone’

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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio -- The Presidents Day holiday brought to a close another successful camping trip for more than a dozen children recovering from burns.

Twice a year, MetroHealth Medical Center and Aluminum Cans for Burned Children (ACBC) offer a weekend retreat for kids who were severely burned, including 12-year-old Aronde Kimbrough from Cleveland.

“We all were asleep, and there was a gas leak in our kitchen, and our ceiling fell down. It started a fire, and I couldn't survive. I couldn't make it,” said Kimbrough, who was burned on his face, hands and other parts of his body three years ago.

Camp Cheerful in Strongsville hosts the bi-annual camping trip. It’s an outlet for a special group of kids, some who have grown into mature young adults, like Casara Muhammad, 23, from Cleveland.

“When I was a camper, I just couldn’t wait to just get there. I used to just be so amped to pack and so amped to go get my snacks,” said Casara.

Casara has been coming to the camp since she was seven years old after her clothing caught fire while standing near a fireplace.

“As I was standing by, like, the flames caught upon the shirt, and my shirt caught on fire. It was just, like 52 percent of my body, so I’m blessed. I have all my limbs,” said Casara, who is now studying to be a physical therapy assistant.

Those attending the weekend retreat refer to it as Camp Phoenix, because they feel like they’ve risen from the ashes.

They’ve all sustained various kinds of burns and have been treated by the staff at Metro. The camp is always held over Presidents Day weekend and on a weekend in August when they’re preparing to go back to school.

“With a broken bone, you wear a cast and the bone heals, then the rest of the world doesn’t see that you ever had a broken bone. But with a burn, it heals but it’s always there,” said Linda Powers, camp director and full-time social worker, who volunteers her time to help the kids.

“I love watching the kids get excited and the smiles that they may not had been smiling too much a couple days earlier,” said Powers.

Local firefighters also donate their time to make the food and serve the kids over the weekend.

“These are the guys that are pulling the kids out of the house fires. Cleveland, Parma, you know? Some of these cities, these are the guys doing the work that are taking care of these kids when they’re burned, taking them to Metro,” said Mike Mochan, a firefighter from Brooklyn.

According to Powers, the camp is a bonding experience that reminds the kids they’re not alone.

“Sometimes we feel like an island, like nobody else understands, and when you meet somebody else that understands, you don’t feel so lonely. You don’t feel so lonely, and so I think that is what I want for them.”

For more information on ACBC, call 216-883-6633 or click here.

The next camp is scheduled for August in Strongsville.