Lea "Kamikaze" Elder
Our 2020, Ruch Family Circle award goes to our beloved Lea “Kamikaze” Elder!
Kamikaze was injured from a house fire 20 years ago on Labor Day. Following her burn injury, while at the hospital, she was visited by James Bosch who worked for AARBF at that time. They talked about all the events although, she was not super open at this time, her focus was on recovering from the injury. AARBF followed up and invited her to camp, where she attended for the first time right after graduating from the 8th grade. At first, she thought camp was a place for people to be sad and feel sorry for you but then she read about all the activities and thought that sounded like the most fun week ever so she agreed to go because of how fun it seemed. At this time, she was also having a bit of a hard time with her scars, being fresh out of her injury. On the bus ride to camp, she was wearing her pressure garments that covered her head and was asked by a little kid, “Are you a boy or girl?” and she thought to herself, “this is going to be tough.” As soon as she arrived to camp she saw survivors swimming who were missing limbs or others not covering their scars. She was able to learn about other’s struggles and she shared, “it opened my eyes and got me out of my bubble. My heart just opened up and it also opened my eyes to really wanting to help people.” From this first year, Kamikaze described she was hooked by all the strength, positivity and the big loving family she observed and wanted to be a part of it.
Before her burn injury, Kamikaze aspired to be a vet but after being at the hospital and experiencing wound care, she realized it would be so much better to be able to explain to your patients what procedures are being done. Humans are able to vocalize opinions and appreciation and she realized that she wanted to go into healthcare with people. At first, she wanted to be a doctor but wanted to be able to form special connections with her patients like she did with her nurses, so she proceeded to become a burn nurse! She is now an amazing burn nurse for the Santa Clara Valley Medical Hospital’s Burn Unit!
Kamikaze shared that she continues to volunteer with AARBF because, “I love burn survivors and our community as well as the family we have created. AARBF is the family you choose. You do not choose to be a burn survivor but you do choose to be a part of this community.” She also shared, although she has so many memories she can share, one that has remained her with was when she was jumping on the trampoline with a buckaroo when the kiddo said they wanted to build a tree house so they could be best friends and live there forever!
We are so grateful for Kamikaze not only was she a camper at Champ Camp, she then proceeded to become a CIT (counselor in training), Counselor, and now is the Buckaroo (Survivors ages 5-7) Unit leader (Champ Camp program staff). Kamikaze says herself that she wants to be a part of it all and she most definitely is! She is also a part of the AARBF board, attends as many regional events as possible, fundraises, co-facilitates the Santa Clara Valley Medical Support Group and is a SOAR coordinator! She has so much love for AARBF and Champ Camp that she got married at Wonder Valley Ranch where camp is held every year!!
We thank you for your passion, dedication and for choosing to be a part of this community and family, our Ruch Family Circle!