2018 Volunteer Appreciation Awards

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2018 Volunteer Appreciation Awards

Administration Awards

The Central Valley Award goes to Peter “Chop Suey” Reynaga!

Our Central CA Regional Manager, Amy “Lotus” McPherson had to say this about Chop Suey: “Chop Suey first became involved with AARBF as a survivor in 2007. Seven years later, he became a counselor at Champ Camp. In that time, he has come to love Champ Camp and the Getaway the most. He loves seeing other survivors become comfortable with their scars.

Chop Suey has been a vital member of the Central California AARBF family. From supporting new survivors to helping me move storage and gear, from helping young campers find their way around camp, to translating a burn prevention presentation in an elderly care home. Chop Suey is always there to help. He is someone the foundation can count on for just about anything. For this reason, Chop Suey is being awarded the administration award. We appreciate everything he does for us and his fellow survivors. We couldn’t do it without you!”

The Northern California Award goes to Sabrina Kwong!

Our Northern CA Regional Manager, Anne “Kimchi” Hildebrand had to say this about Sabrina: “Sabrina came to the foundation to do what most people fear: working on our database! We use Salesforce online software to keep in contact with survivors and volunteers. Without this technology, we wouldn’t be able to communicate with people and since communication is the heart of building a community, we really couldn’t operate without being able to stay in touch with everyone!

Enter Sabrina, Salesforce Superhero, who has been hard at work since last year’s Champ Camp, making sure that all the campers had up-to-date information and so that no one slips through the cracks. Since then, Sabrina has broadened into many more survivor services and ensured that we always have the best contact information for everyone. If you have ever moved or changed your phone number, you can thank Sabrina for making sure that we don’t lose touch! Thank you, Sabrina!”

The Southern California Award goes to the Tierra Del Sol Foundation!

Our Southern CA Senior Regional Manager, Margarita “Cubby” Rodriguez had this to say about this fantastic organization: “Tierra del Sol Foundation (TDS) has volunteered for AARBF since 2013. They coordinate individuals and groups with disabilities to come in and assist the Southern California Office in various tasks. Some of which include: counting FISE coloring books, stickers, evaluations, parent letters, & brochures.

They also assist with the many mailings that go through this office, such as Champ Camp, Ice Skating, Burn Relays, Torrance Spaghetti Dinner, Golf Tournament, Day at the Park, Holiday Parties, The Getaway, and some mailings from Central and Northern CA offices as well. TDS played an important role during the move to the new Southern California office in Pasadena from Burbank. Tierra Del Sol does so much of the behind the scenes work needed to keep an organization such as our going. TDS groups come in with a smile and are a joy to be around. They are amazing group of individuals who work tirelessly until the project is done!”

Learn More About The Tierra del Sol Foundation

Survivor Support Services Awards

The Central Valley Award goes to Steve Knuckles!

Our Central CA Regional Manager, Amy “Lotus” McPherson had to say this about Knuckles: “Steve Knuckles has been with AARBF for about 30 years. He has been a massively influential member of the AARBF family. He has participated in countless burn survivor events, fundraisers, as well as being instrumental in the expansion of our Firefighters in Safety Education (FISE) burn prevention program throughout the state of California. Knuckles first volunteered with the AARBF in 1990, when he was a Firefighter with Atascadero and participated in the Central Coast Fire Chief’s Burn Relay. He’s served on the Board of Directors for 10 years. In his time with AARBF, he has supported and attended the Ski Trip, Surf trip, Waterslide Day at Champ Camp, Young Adult Summit, The Retreat, and many fundraisers, like the Central Coast Fire Chief’s Burn Relay, and many other events. In addition to helping with a variety of programs, he has been a longtime supporter of FISE. He has been instrumental in the expansion of FISE throughout the region. However, today we’d like to celebrate his efforts in supporting burn survivors. It’s been an absolute pleasure serving with Knuckles at a variety of events, and we sincerely appreciate his support for burn survivors across the state.”

The Northern California Award goes to Linda Carrier!

Our Northern CA Regional Manager, Anne “Kimchi” Hildebrand had to say this about Linda: “Linda Carrier has spearheaded the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Holiday Party for many, many years. However, even though it is a party that takes place in December, Linda works tirelessly on the party throughout the year. Moreover, the toys from the Bank of the West toy drive, that Linda is the driving force behind, also go to serve the East Bay Holiday Party.

We really couldn’t even begin to list the amount of work that Linda puts into this party without doing a disservice to all of the other magic that she pulls off for one truly amazing afternoon for survivors and their families. Last year, thanks to Linda’s hard work, 125 burn survivors and family members enjoyed toys, arts and crafts, treats, entertainment, Santa Claus and much more! Thank you so much, Linda and we can’t wait for another very happy holiday party! (We know you are already dreaming of sugar plums!)”

The Southern California Award goes to the Chris “Buc” McKeever!

Our Southern CA Senior Regional Manager, Margarita “Cubby” Rodriguez had this to say about Buc: “Chris has volunteered for AARBF for over a decade. He was introduced to AARBF through longtime friend and AARBF volunteer, Rick “Spaz” Camarena. Buc’s first event with AARBF was as a counselor at Champ Camp in 2005 and he has been there every year since, with no intentions of ever missing it in the future! He has also been a volunteer for the past 13 years at the Young Adult Summit survivor event. Other events that he has participated in include: the Beach Adventure, the Southern and Northern CA Ski Trips, the Getaway, Ice Skating Event, Southern CA Holiday Party, & Los Angeles Burn Relay fundraiser. Buc makes it a point to get to know the burn survivors. He asks questions, and keeps them engaged in important topics and conversations. He has driven burn survivors to various camps, participates in fundraisers, donates, and is willing to help wherever needed. He is truly about the burn survivors and we love him for that.”

Fundraising Awards

The Central Valley Award goes to Chris “Rocks” Bridger!

Our Development Manager, Stephanie “Pocahontas” Boydell had to say this about Rocks: “Chris “Rocks” & Heather Bridger, along with Charlie “Chuckles” & Andrea Bonello, and the Clovis Firefighters Association – Local 1695 have been running the Annual Clovis Firefighters Dinner and Dance event since 2011. The events humble beginnings started in the back corner in a local bar and has since grown to hundreds of attendants bringing in over $80,000 in 2017! Rocks has been a counselor at Champ Camp since 2006 after getting involved through the Chili Cook-off at camp in 2005 with Clovis Fire Department. Rocks also served on the AARBF board for a number of years, working hard to help build AARBF up to the foundation it is today. When asked why he continues to give so much of himself and his family time to the foundation, Rocks stated, “When I sit down and reevaluate my life, think about the stresses and things that keep all of us so busy, I always go back to where my heart is… that with AARBF and Champ Camp.”

The Northern California Award goes to Matt “Cha Cha” Simms!

Our Development Manager, Stephanie “Pocahontas” Boydell had to say this about Cha Cha: “Matt “Cha Cha” Simms and the Mountain View Firefighters Random Acts have been hosting an Annual Pancake Breakfast event, starting with firefighter and Champ Camp counselor, Jenna “Sweet Pea” Graham. This last year, the Pancake Breakfast brought in an amazing $18,000 to AARBF!

Cha Cha has been a counselor at Champ Camp since 2011, last year taking on the daunting task of scheduler. When asked why he continued to give so much of himself and his time volunteering for the foundation, Cha Cha said, “From the outside looking in, it may seem like I’m giving a lot but from the inside, I walk away from Champ Camp getting more from camp than the kids.”

The Southern California Award goes to the Chevron Fire Department Burn Foundation!

The Chevron Fire Department in El Segundo, CA and the Chevron Fire Department Burn Foundation have generously donated to AARBF for many years now, often participating on the Los Angeles Firefighters Burn Relay. Last year the organization donated $15,000!

Prevention Awards

The Central Valley Award goes to Gerald Reeser!

Our Central CA Regional Manager, Amy “Lotus” McPherson had to say this about Gerald: “Gerald Reeser, a firefighter with the Selma Firefighters and Selma Fire Department, has been instrumental in the delivery of burn prevention education throughout Central California. Gerald helps in the administration of the Firefighters in Safety Education (FISE) program at Selma Fire Department and has helped implement a new Senior Fire and Fall prevention program, Remembering When, in the Central Valley.

Often volunteering his own time to help other departments, Gerald selflessly gives his time, energy, and knowledge, to educate people about burn prevention. As chair of the burn prevention coalition here in Central California, Gerald has significantly and positively impacted the effectiveness of burn prevention efforts in our region by supporting a variety of programs and agencies in their collaborative efforts. He truly shows what it means to prevent further burn injuries in California. For his dedication to burn prevention, Gerald is being awarded the Burn Prevention Award. Thank you for making Central California a safer place for everyone!”

The Northern California Award goes to Dewayne “Dash” Eckerdt!

Our Northern CA Regional Manager, Anne “Kimchi” Hildebrand had to say this about Dash: “Dewayne “Dash” Eckerdt is a man of many talents with the burn foundation, but for his Prevention Award, we would like to recognize him for his amazing accomplishments with the Firefighters in Safety Education (FISE) Program.

Dewayne has dedicated himself to the program for the past 10 years, from doing presentations, to organizing his fellow volunteers to do presentations and training new fire departments across California. Now he’s training dozens and dozens of new presenters in his own department, San Francisco Fire Department! Over the years, the program has reached tens of thousands of elementary school kids in San Francisco, and thanks to Dewayne’s long-term dedication and vision, it is getting ready to educate even more. Thank you so much, Dewayne, for growing this program from a tiny seed to a super huge sunflower! “

The Southern California Award goes to the Maggie Valdivia!

Our Southern CA Senior Regional Manager, Margarita “Cubby” Rodriguez had this to say about Maggie: “Maggie Valdivia is a Community Service Liaison (CSL) for the Los Angeles County Fire Department in Lacofd Div IX. Maggie is a huge supporter of the Firefighters in Safety Education (FISE) program in Southern California! She has assisted in bringing FISE training, since April 2015, to the following departments: Temple City, Rosemead & El Monte, and South El Monte in 2016.

Most recently we trained firefighters in the City of Commerce and did a retraining for El Monte Fire Department all with Maggie’s coordination. Maggie has attended school meetings with myself, the School district’s superintendent and principals’ meetings to help pave the way for the FISE program. Maggie goes above and beyond to respond to any request we have for FISE, as she sees the importance of having this valuable free program. She always says it’s a win-win for all; the kids get these life saving burn prevention tools and the fire department is involved within their community. Maggie is one of the greatest advocates of the Firefighters in Safety Education program in Southern California and for that we thank her for that!”

Champy-On Award

Today we are celebrating Colleen “Jeeter” Youngblood, our 2018 Champy-On Volunteer Award winner!

We have so many amazing volunteers that devote so much of their lives and energy to camp however, we were looking for someone who is a staple and leader for Champ Camp. Someone who has helped to make Champ Camp more than just a summer camp for Burn Survivor children, but the life-changing experience it has become.

Anyone who has had the privilege of meeting Colleen “Jeeter” Youngblood knows that her passion and enthusiasm for Champ Camp is absolutely contagious! Jeeter is one of two Camp Directors for AARBF’s Champ Camp and has been volunteering with us since 1993! Jeeter also served on the AARBF Board of Directors for many years and now serves as an Advisory Board member. Jeeter was introduced to AARBF back when we had the Gold Country Burn Relay that ran along HWY 49, Northeast of Sacramento. She was a Paramedic at the time with the City of Folsom Fire Department and her station, #35, was a stop. Meeting the burn survivor children at the relay truly inspired her and ever since that day, Jeeter has devoted a tremendous amount of her life to Champ Camp from pulling her now husband, Jack “Chief,” into the fold in 1995 to making sure her children, Rhogian “Bolt” & Ehmma “Canvas,” have been a part of camp since they were 3 years old & 11 months old!

Jeeter’s innovation, long-standing commitment and fun-loving spirit are why we’ve selected her for the 2018 Champy-On Volunteer Award. Camp could not run nearly as smoothly or efficiently without her and we can’t thank her enough for all that she does. When asked why she has, and continues to, commit so much of her life to AARBF and Champ Camp Jeeter said, “Volunteering for Champ Camp is the perfect definition of unconditional love. It changes your perspective on life and ‘fills you up’ for the rest of the year until you can get back to camp. It helps me push through and conquer any challenge I come up against.”

People's Choice Award

Rana “Lil Bear” Stephan, our 2018 People’s Choice Volunteer Award winner! A nomination form went out last month to all our volunteers and everyone was asked to nominate someone who they thought deserved to be recognized.

Every room Rana “Lil Bear” Stephan walks into inevitably lights up. She is one of those people that are such a joy to be around you wonder how you got so lucky; and we here at AARBF feel so VERY lucky to have Lil Bear as a volunteer and as a friend! Lil Bear has been a volunteer with AARBF for 6 years at Champ Camp and a year before that volunteering in the office. Lil Bear was brought to AARBF while her grandmother was a burn patient at St. Francis in San Francisco and she saw flyers and knew she wanted to get involved. It was kismet that she found AARBF because after meeting Jill Sproul while volunteering at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Holiday Party, she was able to secure an interview and get hired for her dream job, burn unit nurse! Lil Bear now serves on the Medical Staff at Champ Camp and says she loves it because “I get to help the kids feel better at get back to the fun at camp!” When asked why she continues to give up so much of her time to volunteering for AARBF Lil Bear said, “You just get so much more than you give. Getting to be at camp is like coming to a family reunion!”

Marianne “Yammie” Krassow, who nominated her for the award, had this to say about Lil Bear: “Rana has truly devoted her life to Burn Survivor support. She consistently has a positive spirit when working with all ages of Burn Survivors and does anything to accommodate their needs. She gives so much of her own time working on ideas, projects, and attending events to support Burn Survivor activities. Rana is extremely knowledgeable about the needs of survivors and strives to improve resources for individuals in need. Not only does Rana give her time volunteering, she also encourages others to join in! Her enthusiasm for Burn Survivors is contagious and her motivation to volunteer is amazing. I am so thankful she has introduced me to AARBF and through her volunteer effort I have been able to connect as well.”

Ruch Family Circle Award

Today we are celebrating Rey Dong, our 2018 Ruch Family Circle Award winner! The Ruch Family Circle is the most prestigious award that we can present because it is awarded to someone who has been so instrumental to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, that they are a part of our family.

This was one of the more difficult award bios to write because Rey Dong was such a uniquely wonderful man. His commitment and dedication to AARBF, and anything he put his heart and mind to, was inspiring to say the least. Rey coordinated our Los Angeles Firefighters Burn Relay fundraiser for 25 years and last year, he passed the baton on to Mike Kozicki with Santa Fe Springs Firefighters, Local 3507 and Joshua Kueng with Manhattan Beach Fire Foundation. Rey was a retired dispatcher with the Los Angeles County Fire Department and he enjoyed spending quality time with his family, traveling and cruising more than anything. Rey was always there to help in any facet he could and he made sure that everyone was always taken care of. We selected Rey as an honorary recipient of the Ruch Family Circle Award because Rey was absolutely a part of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation family. We lost Rey unexpectedly this year and it has been devastating to all who knew him. Rey’s loss will continue to be felt as our Los Angeles Firefighters Burn Relay continues each year but his memory will live on.