2020 Volunteer Appreciation Awards

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2020 Volunteer Appreciation Awards

Administration Awards

AARBF is awarding “Archer and Hound” our 2020 Central California Administration Award. Archer and Hound has been a vital resource for our Central California office and to the Foundation in our amazing rebranding process.

Archer and Hound was created in 2006 and is a local advertising agency located in Fresno, CA. The owners for this amazing agency are Jessica and Dave Blanchfield. Jessica stumbled upon AARBF through a fill-the-boot fundraiser out in the community. Jessica herself has a unique and as she would describe, “non-traditional” story. As a young kid, Jessica suffered from a burn injury and was treated by her own pediatrician. She describes her entire recovery as “non-traditional” because she was not aware that a burn survivor community existed until she was an adult. A few years ago, she was looking for a new board to serve on after serving for 10 years on the American Red Cross Board. She reached out to AARBF and felt an immediate connection, as this was her first time ever really connecting with other burn survivors. Once on the board, she noticed a definite need for her agency’s services and this is where Archer and Hound became a part of AARBF!

Archer and Hound is composed of 12 extremely talented staff who have a heart for jumping in and helping their clients and the community. Volunteering for AARBF was a unanimous decision and thanks to this amazing team, AARBF was re-branded in 2019! They work as a team in an open and collaborative environment, we could not ask for a better agency to support AARBF! Not only have they spearheaded an awesome re-brand but Jessica has served on the board as the “marketing” chair for a few years. They have opened our new “Champ Camp Store” with camp merchandise and have also helped design the merchandise available for purchase!

Jessica and her team continue to volunteer for AARBF because our mission is a “fantastic cause” and with Jessica’s personal burn survivor story she understands how the lack of support affects an individual. Getting to know other’s stories, she is able to tell how positive of an impact the Foundation is to survivors and is able to share that back with her team, inspiring everyone’s dedication to being a part of AARBF as one. She stated, “The friendships you form through even only interacting 2 times a year are a unique connection”.

The Archer and Hound team is, “Glad to help any way we can” and we are so thankful they are so dedicated to their community and AARBF! We love the culture within your team, thank you!

The Northern California Administration Award for 2020 goes to … Anne “Kimchi” Hildebrand! Kimchi is an amazing individual and example that even if your path shifts in a different direction, that you can always be a part of AARBF!

Kimchi came across an “Idealist” posting for the Northern CA regional manager position in 2016. She then became part of the AARBF team for two amazing years!

Although her career path has gone another route, she is still dedicated to volunteering for AARBF. Kimchi now works for “Swiftly” and has created projects called “Volunteer Happy Hours” for the company to partake in. Those Volunteer Happy Hours have been dedicated to AARBF in the form of making goody bags for the Northern Ski Trip, assembling FISE coloring books, stuffing event envelopes as well as donating postage, donating sunglasses, hand warmers and sunscreen as well as water bottles! A lot of administrative tasks are very tedious yet so essential and it makes an enormous difference to have volunteers assist whenever possible.

Kimchi shared that she continues to volunteer and recruit volunteers to assist her with these Volunteer Happy  Hours because of her personal tie and that “once you are a part of this community you don’t really leave.”

One of her favorite memories from AARBF has been seeing the determination in survivors when attempting new challenges like climbing real rocks! Survivors have demonstrated to be able to accomplish many things she hasn’t even imagined being able to do herself, it is truly inspiring.

Kimchi has stated that Swiftly will continue to donate Volunteer Happy Hours whenever they can and are needed! Kimchi, we appreciate your dedication to AARBF and are so grateful you are still keeping us in mind within your new path. We wish you so much success in all of your endeavors always and are so glad you are part of the AARBF community!

Our Southern California Administration Award for 2020 has been awarded to Russ Charvonia!

Thanks to our amazing volunteer/ambassador Steve Knuckles, Russ and his wife Linda became a part of AARBF! The Masons host an annual firefighter’s appreciation night in SLO, and this is where Russ and Knuckles met. They were sitting at the same table when burn injury trivia started. Russ recalls the question being; “What is the greatest cause of injuries in children?” Knuckles whispered to Russ the correct answer and then their conversation flourished from there. June 2014, Russ and Linda attend Champ Camp for a night where they were able to see and interact with campers and counselors, AARBF became very near and dear to their hearts. As Grand Master for the Masons in California, Russ was able to raise funds for a program that meant a lot to him and raised 25,000 for FISE!

Russ now provides constant support to the Southern Region with day to day tasks or whatever might be needed at the time. Not only does he donate his time to the Southern region, but he has also been part of the Board since 2016 and just became our Board President for 2020. Additionally, Russ and Linda attend a few regional events to lend a hand as well like the holiday party, relay and surf trip.

Russ shared that he continues to be so passionate about AARBF because, “seeing the difference we’re making in people’s lives is incredibly humbling. There are certain things you can plan for in life, but a burn injury is something I don’t think anyone can plan for, it is a life changing event. Being a resource and support to those in need during these events of such great loss is meaningful and impactful. Frankly, I contribute a tiny part being on the board, the real people that make the difference are staff and volunteers that are with the survivors.”

Russ shared a funny story that happened while at the board retreat. He mentioned he did not have an official camp name with the board and usually camp names are not used during these times to keep a level of professionalism (we wear multiple hats sometimes). While Russ was sharing a deep thought with the group about how to be committed to the cause, he used an analogy that was used by the marketing director from Apple when he was younger. In sum, it is about how you need to be a “raging thunder lizard for the cause!” Monkey jumped up with great excitement and stated that was his new camp name; “Thunder Lizard!”

We are honored and lucky that Russ has become a part of AARBF in many different capacities, especially with the tremendous amount of help he provides to the staff and to the Foundation as a whole. Russ expressed, “I am honored and flattered to be awarded this year” and we are honored and flattered to have his support!

Survivor Support Services Awards

AARBF’s Central California 2020 awardee is our beloved Marissa “Hydra” McCallough and we can’t wait to share how she came to be a part of our AARBF family.

Hydra is a born and raised Reedley gal, who has always been attracted to water activities, so much so that she became a lifeguard shortly after high school. In 2010, she was a lifeguard for the city of Reedley and was recruited to work for summer camps taking place at Wonder Valley Ranch. Hydra signed up and shared, “that year was life changing, I had never seen or interacted with a burn survivor. I was blown away by all the love and positivity from being there for the week. I let the leader know that I would help out anytime they needed lifeguards and I started working with “Knuckles” the next year.” In total, she lifeguarded for Champ Camp (AARBF’s annual summer camp for burn survivors ages 5-17) for 5 years. She left that first year knowing she wanted to keep coming back. Throughout her volunteering as a lifeguard, she started nursing school and she stated, “Being at camp made me want to become a burn nurse”. As for many people, life happened, and she was unable to start her journey as a camp counselor for a few years but knew she really wanted to and just had to finish nursing school to be able to join. In 2018, Hydra came back to AARBF not as a lifeguard, but as a Champ Camp Counselor for the Wrangler group (ages 11-13) and has chosen to continue to make it a priority and plans life around Champ Camp. She is just that committed and in love with being a part of her “Ohana”, and she refers to her camp family.

In addition to Champ Camp, Hydra is also part of many regional events year-round including the, Monterey Bay Aquarium sleep over, Morro Bay beach Adventure trip and the Holiday Party. She is a local night shift burn nurse at the Leon S. Peters Burn Center and continues to love what she does. In these trying times we appreciate her nursing passion more than ever! Not only does she volunteer through recreational events, she is also a vital part of the CRMC Burn survivor support group and helps to lead the teen and adult support groups on a monthly basis. Last but not least, she spearheaded a Bows for Dough Fundraising Campaign along with the incredible support of her burn unit team.  In their 2nd year as a Bows for Dough team, the burn unit raised the most out of all the other teams! Their contributions totaled over 20,000 dollars in 2019 for AARBF.

Hydra continues to be a part of the foundation because, as she so lovely stated, “It has made me who I am. I became a burn nurse and I have a different perspective about burn injuries through my career and my volunteering. Not only do I benefit from being a better person, but I also have become a better nurse, because I feel like I can provide better care to my patients and see their point of view.” She has expressed that she is also grateful she is able to provide more support through a patient’s worst part of their recovery and also post-care. Hydra shared, “I have gained a great family and lifelong friends and I cannot imagine my life without AARBF at all … at all. AARBF is my Ohana.”

Her experience with AARBF includes so many fun memories, one she shared was how she was part of the longest game of “UNO” with a few survivors and counselors during the surf trip! Along with fun memories, there are also many heartfelt ones like being able to be alongside a survivor and their journey through the hospital and into the post-care and being able to see how positive their mindset has turned and how well they continue to progress in their life!

We appreciate your heart and dedication to the burn community Hydra and wish that you and your team are safe and well! We are so thankful you are part of AARBF!

The 2020 AARBF Northern California Survivor Services Award goes to Brooke “Gidget” Cappa!

Gidget is a pediatric Occupational Therapist for Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. About 5 years ago, when she began working at the hospital, her colleagues kept mentioning Champ Camp and the Foundation. AARBF provides in-hospital services and is well connected to Saint Francis. One day she was working with a young pediatric patient and during the therapy session to help the patient with burns on both legs walk, she decided that they would both dress up. Once they were decked out in tulle, capes and crowns they began their hunt game and were walking down the halls. Turns out, perfect timing brought Apollo to this same hallway at the precise moment. He spotted Gidget and said to her, that they needed to talk about camp ASAP! Apollo explained camp further and since this was not her first time hearing about it, she decided that she did want to join but had to wait one more year to be able to attend. Once she became a counselor she was immediately hooked and understood why her walking down the hallway in a costume with a patient so effortlessly made her such a perfect recruit!

Not only has Gidget been a counselor for the past 3 years and counting, she is also involved in many of the regional events year-round! She is also a great leader along with her Saint’s team in raising funds for AARBF year after year!

Gidget shared, “I am really proud to be a part of AARBF, you guys feel like another family. I love you all as people and what AARBF stands for, it all hits my heart strings. Whatever I can do to help support and make things better, it is meaningful to me.” She also mentioned a funny memory was when her campers tried to teach her and her co-counselors how to “floss”! Because of this, she continues to volunteer for AARBF in many different aspects and looks forward to many more years!

We are so thankful that Gidget is part of the AARBF family and is such a strong advocate in both the medical world, and volunteer world! She is always willing to attend any event that needs help and is loved by so many.

The Survivor Services Awardee for Southern California 2020, is Stacey “Snoopy” Shames!

Snoopy is a Ranchero (campers ages 8-10) Champ Camp Counselor, a burn nurse and a whole-hearted individual. She started volunteering at Champ Camp in 1999 and has not missed a single year in the past 20 years! Before coming to camp, she volunteered in the Southern office with administration work back in 1996. She found out about the Foundation through donating to AARBF while taking an EMT class. Through her years at camp, she started nursing school and after being a part of Champ Camp and meeting inspiring individuals such as  “Redhawk” she decided to pursue her career as a burn nurse.

Snoopy loves AARBF so much that she volunteers for as many events as she can year-round! In addition to Champ Camp, she also attends The Getaway, Surf Trip, Burn Relay, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Young Adult Summit (YAS), Holiday Parties, Day at the Park, Halloween Party and Ski Trip! Additionally, she also fundraises for AARBF through the Bows for Dough Campaign. Snoopy has devoted her life to the burn survivor community and is such an essential individual to AARBF!

Snoopy let AARBF know that, “I really love the organization, and everything it does. I love seeing the kids grow up and do great things with their life and flourish. Although it makes me feel old … Getting kids to camp and watching them just be kids means so much. Kids out in the real world are mean enough when you don’t have something different about you, so it makes it that much better to see them gain self-confidence and try new things at camp. It is also fun, and I love it!”

We appreciate everything you do for us and the community, Snoopy! We look forward to having you continue to be a part of our family for many more years!

Fundraising Awards

AARBF’s Central CA Fundraising Award for 2020 goes to our incredible Father-Daughter team; Brian and Megan Leathers!

Year after year they dedicate their time and energy to coordinate a successful Central Coast Fire Chief’s Burn Relay which has 2 routes because of the many departments involved!

Brian is a Firefighter for Five Cities Fire Authority and started volunteering for AARBF in 1995 by going to schools in the region and providing burn prevention education. During this time, Brian met Morro Bay Fire Chief Steve Knuckles who coordinated the relay and was looking for someone to help coordinate/lead the south route of the relay.  Around 2014, once Steve Knuckles became Fire Chief, Brian took over coordinating the whole relay Central Coast Burn Relay. Along with Brian becoming the coordinator of the relay, his daughter Megan also took an interest in community service. Megan has decided to be a part of AARBF through this event and help her father out as much as possible. For the last couple of years, she has been instrumental with the planning and logistics of the relay!

Not only does this amazing team plan and lead a successful relay, they are officially part of the Chili-Cook off at Champ Camp. 2019, was their first year with a team at this annual event and they look forward to continuing to be a part of it.

Megan is looking forward to becoming a Champ Camp counselor next year. She has always worked with kids and this is an experience she has been wanting to be a part of for a few years. Megan wants to help educate kids and the community with the goal of spreading life-saving skills. She shared, “I want to be that person that empowers kids and is a role model in their lives if they don’t have one at home.”

Brian expressed that he is in the same boat as his daughter in that he also wants to empower the community to be safer. He has always loved prevention at the fire department level. He was able to take over the prevention pub ed program in his department and is passionate about spreading the message. Brian shared that when he was an infant, a pot of coffee spilled on him, landing him in the hospital for a couple of days. Although he does not identify as a burn survivor today, he believes this incident sparked an interest in keeping others safe from burn injuries.

Both Brian and Megan get excited every time October rolls around because it means the relay is happening! Megan shared that she feels very accomplished once the day is over, and looks forward to the next year!

We appreciate Brian and Megan very much and are so excited and grateful to have both be a part of AARBF, along with their puppy, Wrigley, who knows how to “STOP, DROP and ROLL”! Megan, we look forward to having you become a Champ Camp counselor in the near future!

Our awardee for the 2020 Northern California Fundraising Award is Keith “Padres” Muelheim!!

Padres is and has been a Firefighter for the Sonoma Fire Department for the past 18 years. To him, volunteering for AARBF is rewarding to him personally and in his career as it is his livelihood. Following in his father’s footsteps who was a volunteer firefighter for about 30 years, Padres also became one while thinking about pursuing a different career path. For about 19 years now, Padres went from being a Volunteer Firefighter to a Firefighter in the North Bay area.

Padres learned about the Foundation through his department.  The department has been a part of the North bay relay and Padres has been helping with coordinating and is now the lead coordinator for the relay. AARBF routinely visits with fire departments to share how they can volunteer with the Foundation and it was during one of these presentations about Champ Camp that Padres’ interest was sparked. In 2013, he attended new counselor training and has been a part of AARBF, not just in the fundraising side, but now also as a Champ Camp counselor!

Padres shared how deeply he believes in finding something to participate in and giving your time back to the community. Year after year, Champ Camp has become a priority and he makes sure he is able to dedicate that week of time to the kiddos. He expressed how the kids have had a great impact on his passion for continuing to volunteer and seeing them grow up has been a unique experience.

Through volunteering in other realms, it has strengthened his passion to continue to support AARBF through coordinating and leading fundraisers like the North Bay which brings so much awareness and a generous amount of donations. Padres also participates in “Grow Your Stache” to fundraise even more!

We appreciate his commitment to AARBF and the community collectively and look forward to many more years of collaborating and growth!

In Southern CA, we are awarding the 2020 Fundraising Award to the LA Burn Relay Team!

Year after year; Mike, Josh, Tyson and Chris work together as a team to coordinate and lead the relay alongside Jan from our Southern office. Mike started volunteering and being a part of the relay through his fire department (Santa Fe Springs Fire Department). Ray Dong (may he rest in peace) used to coordinate the relay, but once he passed away, Mike who had been working closely with Ray took over in  2017. Before this, he had been involved for about 9 years. Mike decided that he wanted to coordinate the relay alongside individuals passionate about helping and giving back so he reached out to Josh, Tyson and Chris who all agreed to be a part of the team.

Josh is a Manhattan Beach Firefighter and focuses on rallying the troops and reaching out to all of the different contact of the bay. Mike says, “the team makes me look good” while the team has said back that Mike does so much for the team, is such a strong leader and takes the leadership role to heart. Josh states, “He does a lot for us and AARBF.” Tyson is an LA County Firefighter, his role in the relay is to secure engines and fire vehicles and support them throughout. Chris works for Care Ambulance and ensures there is an ambulance at each leg of the relay. Josh and Mike make up the main contacts while Chris and Tyson are the energy, as described by Mike. Chris and Tyson also started a whole new golf tournament as well, aside from the relay.

In 2019, was the team’s highest year bringing in $45,000! This year they have a very great surprise ( a new addition) but we will have to wait to see what the surprise is once the relay is back on since it had to be postponed. The team is eager and ready to make this year’s relay amazing!

When asked why they continue to volunteer for AARBF this is what the team had to say;

Mike – “Getting to see the survivors young and old, and having them be so appreciative motivates you to keep going and keep helping. When you see it, the difference it makes it shows you that your hard work makes a difference in someone’s life, and it makes it all worth it.”

Josh – “ I got involved because of my family ties with Mike being my brother-in-law. Mike had gotten involved with the Foundation way before asking me to start helping. Mike and I grew up together and I have known him since freshman year in high school … it’s been quite a long time and he is now also family. He asked for my help and I said of course. Family drew me in, family is what keeps me in (AARBF is also my family). Being able to work with Jan, seeing and meeting all the survivors is special and have made it become family. It has been quite an experience to be a part of this and help. I want to recognize Mike, he does a lot for the team and he is the forefront in getting things started, spearheading ideas and the relay itself. He does so much when it comes down to coordinating and working closely with Jan. Besides being a team, you always need a good leader and Mike is that person. “

Tyson – “It’s almost as simple as I was asked. I think a lot of people are capable of helping or doing things they never thought they could accomplish. With a little nudge or simply a person asking them for help, that can be all the catalyst a person needs. I do believe it helps when that person is someone you respect and look up to like Mike. It makes it that much easier to say yes. It’s amazing what a little nudge can do to a person and put them on the path they know deep down is in them. So as for why I began to help, the simple question asked by someone I respect, was my catalyst to jump in. As for why I continue to help … I have always had an affection for children. Now I know we are not just helping children but the majority I would say are and also that’s the perfect time to shape the minds of the future and not let the world beat them down. It can be a tough world and especially for the AARBF children. With me being a firefighter, I also have a soft spot for my profession and how at times it can hurt people and myself. I constantly sit on the beach, after I surf and thank the lord for how I have been blessed but one of the best things that comes from me being present at the beach is to see the kids seeing the ocean for the first time. The kids, whomever they are light up and it is such a pure joy that it lights up everyone around them. This is the same feeling I get knowing that the AARBF family gets to spend one week up at Champ Camp knowing they are accepted and loved and not judged by society’s standards. I have a favorite artist whom I started collecting from Tahiti and one of his favorite pieces of mine is called “Acceptance.” In the end it’s what every individual wants and needs. A sense of acceptance, family, love, and home. I believe we only scratch the surface with what we do but knowing that people will be accepted for who they are and light up for one entire week like if it was the first time they saw the ocean, it’s the least we could do, and I believe each one of us comes away with more than we ever give.

The burn relay team demonstrates their passion for AARBF and the burn survivor community year after year! They love being able to have survivors speak on behalf of what AARBF means to them because it motivates everyone around them and just reinforces the purpose behind it all.

LA Burn Relay Team, we cannot thank you enough for all you have done for AARBF and continue to do. We look forward to seeing that extra addition on the relay and hope you are all very proud of all of your accomplishments, including deeply earning this award.

Prevention Awards

AARBF’s Central California Burn Prevention Award for 2020 goes to the Clovis Fire Department for being a strong leader of the FISE (Firefighter’s in Safety Education) program in the Central Region!

The Clovis Fire Department members are involved with AARBF in many ways, like fundraising and survivor services program, but this year we would like to recognize them for their strong burn prevention education efforts in their community.

Unfortunately, Clovis FD had to cancel their prevention efforts during the recession that affected everyone. When things started to look up, Chad Fitzgerald (Life Safety Manager) and Chris Bridger (Fire Captain) were able to sit down together to brainstorm a plan to implement FISE into Clovis FD. FISE is a structed fire prevention program that allows us to measure the progress of student’s learning through pre and post testing about fire safety. The statistics are then shared with the fire department, school, district and AARBF. As a community, these statistics are key in demonstrating the importance of fire prevention education at an early stage in life.

Clovis FD along with Clovis Unified School District (CUSD), as a partner in this endeavor were able to team to up with AARBF to provide the Clovis community a strong burn prevention program. Clovis Unified has played a vital role in creating a strong prevention program with Clovis FD through scheduling assemblies for the presentation, playing an active role for online testing and being open to the program. Without CUSD, it would be extremely difficult to push forth FISE and allowing the engraining of this important life-saving information at an early age.

When asked, why Clovis FD continues to be a partner with AARBF, Chad responded in his very wise words, “We have a shared effort towards a common goal and when you have community partners it is important to not duplicate efforts but instead maximize those efforts. That is what we have with AARBF, it makes it easier for the overall mission to be accomplished.” Chris pointed out, “For us we see the need and are definitely a group that always wants to find ways to give back to the community and this partnership is something that is very close to us. AARBF’s mission lines up with our mission too. With FISE, our priority is to keep our community safe so when we teach the kids fire safety practices, it grows into a safer community as well.”

Not only are we thankful to Clovis FD for being a key partner and leader in burn prevention education, but also for the many other ways they support AARBF! Many of their firefighters have become Champ Camp counselors, and always have a team for Chili Cook-Off! Clovis FD also hosts an amazing Clovis Dinner and Dance that raises a very generous amount of donations that they share through the Central Valley Burn relay. We are also very grateful for the office space they have provided to our Central Region team for the past 5 years! We appreciate Clovis FD for always been willing to lend a hand year-round!

The Roseville Fire Department is our recipient for the 2020 AARBF Northern California Burn Prevention Award!

Jeff Peterson has been a champion for FISE (Firefighters in Safety Education) within Roseville FD and to many other departments in the Northern Region. Jeff has spoken to our Northern California Regional Manager about how FISE has been such a success for their department, the firefighters and the schools! FISE is a program that everyone has been able to adapt to so easily because it is  information was already familiar, the program simply added structure to the curriculum  to make is easier to present. Having this program in place has been invaluable in teaching the students.

In addition to Jeff leading FISE, Jaime “Summer” Garrett who is also part of the department has dedicated over 10 years to AARBF in the Survivor Services side.

We are grateful for Roseville Fire Department in keeping their community safe and spreading as much burn prevention education as they can!

The Southern Region Burn Prevention Award for 2020 has been awarded to Jasmin “Nemo” Paneda!

As a burn survivor herself, Nemo became a part of AARBF by attending the Young Adult Summit (YAS) in 2010 followed by Champ Camp for her senior year and then the following year as a CIT (Counselor in Training). Life happened, as it does to many of us, and she was unable to come back for a few years. She then volunteered as a counselor for a winter camp for burn survivors through another organization. Being surrounded by many survivors and family members reminded her of AARBF and it made her miss her “roots”. This is when she reached out to our Southern California Senior Regional manager Margarita and began volunteering in the office.

During her office work volunteering, she eased her way into becoming the FISE (Firefighters in Safety Education) Intern for the Southern region. She saw how much work the FISE program was and is and said that she couldn’t imagine not lending a hand, soon enough she was able to be the primary contact for the fire departments.

Nemo expressed, “I care about the Foundation, it changed my life. As a teen it changed my life, so I wanted to bring a bit of feeling that was brought up for me and help others understand they belong somewhere and are not alone.” She also is very grateful for Margarita, “She puts in a lot of work and I don’t know how she does it.” Everyone that is part of AARBF is passionate about the work that they do and that is why they continue to be involved in many different realms.

Margarita and AARBF are very appreciate of the amazing help and strength you have brought to the burn prevention realm in Southern California, we thank you and look forward to many more years together!

Community Partner Award

We are so thankful and would like to once more congratulate our Community Partner for their 2020 award … The Angel Flight West Team!!

Angel Flight West is also a non-profit organization that provides transportation for many different causes throughout California. For AARBF, we are able to count on Angel Flight to provide transportation to our survivors not just to attend Champ Camp but also to be able to attend different regional events throughout the year!


Their mission aligns with ours, and Angel Flight thinks of supporting us as an extension of providing medical flights. The reasoning behind it arose from Lisa “Ebby” Powell who requested a partnership and explained how crucial Champ Camp is for the survivors. It is important for them to learn, grow and be a part of something. Additionally, some of the kids get medical attention at camp they might not otherwise be able to get back home. The Associate Executive Director, Cheri Cimmarrusti shared, “The pilots love flying the kids. The enjoy seeing the excitement they have on the flights to camp and even more-so the excitement they express when they’re on their way home. Some kids sleep all the way home or cry most of their way home at the end of camp. All of those things just connect to the pilots in helping them see how important camp really is for them all.”

Cheri also had a funny memory to share about a kiddo that the pilot was not able to get a hold of. When the camp director (Ebby) was asked to help she called AF back laughing! She said that all of a sudden while on the phone with the survivor’s mom, she heard big screaming and a racquet. She asked what all the racquet was about and the survivor responded, “Oh my sister let the chickens in again”. This was such a unique and funny memory that she wanted to share. They also have a lot of funny memories of survivors packing way too much for the small aircrafts and having to condense suitcases by pulling things out right outside of the aircraft itself!

Angel flight has such a sweet spot for the survivors, they see them grow just as AARBF does. They even have one survivor that has impacted them so much, they have posted a picture on their wall of the survivor with a pilot. The pilots truly love Champ Camp, it’s their favorite and for some, it is the only event they volunteer to fly for year after year.

Angel flight West Team, we cannot come up with the words to express how much we appreciate you all and the pilots for everything you do for us. Without you, many kids would not be able to make it events like Champ Camp that are truly life changing.

We hope you are all well and safe and look forward to continuing are partnership for as many years as we are able to. Congratulations!

The entire CRMC – Burn Unit team has been involved in various fundraising and burn survivor service efforts for AARBF however, we were able to speak with Shana Henry, the Aftercare Specialist & Nurse regarding their Volunteer Appreciation Award win. She said, “We feel it’s imperative to build community partnerships with those that are able to assist us in the complex care of burn survivors. We are so thankful for AARBF’s programs that serve as adjunct resources for our patients. To date our favorite AARBF activity is champ camp. We try to send a couple staff members yearly as well as bring a team to participate in the chili cook-off. We use this event to build comradery amongst are team and further engage our team members. They love it!”

The CRMC Burn Unit is a crucial community partner and without them, we would not be able to accomplish the good work we do in the Central Valley!

Champy-On Award

Our Champy-On Award goes to someone who has been an essential person to Champ Camp for more than 10 years! This year it won’t be awarded to one person or two, it is going to three of the most essential individuals at Champ Camp … Our Camp Moms!! Our Camp Mom was started with Teddy and is now the loving team of Soupy and Mouser!

Camp Moms at Champ Camp are truly what you would think it is, they have everything, and anything needed or missing. If they don’t have something they will go back into town to get it for you. They make sure no camper and counselor are left without any essential items like; sleeping bags, clothes, toiletries, etc. They are also there to lend an ear, as all camp moms have been a counselor before, they are more than happy to lend advice for those new or those experiencing a new event or emotion. They ensure our cabins are kept clean throughout the week by awarding the cleanest cabin every day! They also make sure that everyone has snacks after rest hour for the whole week. Their work does not end once everyone leaves Champ Camp, they work year-round collecting essential items to ensure everyone has a great time and have everything they need to stay safe, clean and taken care of.

The “Camp Mom” title started in 1988 when Marilyn “Teddy” Erickson, along with one more staff were asked to help out with tasks like laundry, making town runs and helping out with the kiddos. Then it all started to build from there, Teddy shared that she gradually caught on to what were essential things to bring to camp and she started collecting items year-round to be ready for the next summer. For the next 25 years Teddy took on the camp mom role and grew it into what we know it to be today. Teddy, knowing she wouldn’t be able to keep the camp-mom role for forever (although she would’ve if she could) began searching for the next camp mom. The only difference is that she didn’t just have one person in mind, she had the great idea of searching for a dynamic team of two! As of 2013, we are so grateful to have Evie “Mouser” Gonzalez and Cindy “Soupy” Mutoza are our Camp Moms!

Teddy came to the Foundation through her husband who is now a retired firefighter from Fresno Fire. She started out as an ambassador for AARBF, then became part of the board (was part of the brainstorming for camp), volunteered to drive a kiddo to camp when she was asked to stay for the week and although at first she was unsure, she said yes and was immediately hooked! Her first year as a camp counselor was in 1986, and recalls that “Lala” and “Skittles” her in her cabin group that year. Having to care for girls was a learning curve for her since her children were all boys. After a couple of years, Champ Camp was moved to Wonder Valley Ranch where she became Camp Mom for the next 25 years!

Teddy shared with us that she continues to volunteer and support AARBF any way she can because, “it is the fact that here is  an organization who started helping a group of people that were unknown and underserved. I was hooked through the prevention education program. If I could keep one child from going through what I have seen other burn survivor children go through, then it is worth it to me. It seemed like a really good cause when I started and then camp hooked me even more!”

Mouser also came to AARBF because her husband “Otter” was a fireman that was helping with a golf tournament. Mouser began helping out as the event started to grow and in 1997 counselors were needed, so both signed up and her volunteerism with the Foundation (especially with Champ Camp) blossomed from there!

Mouser continues to volunteer for AARBF, “because of the kids, the love, the comradery and the giving back. I feel very fortunate because I met my best friend at camp. I get to spend a whole week with her. We have so much fun together, it is like being on vacation although it is a TON of work!”

Soupy just like the other camp moms was also brought in through her husband being a firefighter (Beautiful trend)! While at a burn relay dinner, Teddy was invited to do a presentation about AARBF. Throughout the presentation, Soupy’s interest sparked and in 1999 she filled out her Champ Camp counselor application and has been hooked ever since!

Soupy shared, “It is hard to explain camp to people, but it just grabs you. For me when I drive through the gates of Wonder Valley Ranch, all the stress of the year just melts away. I remember one year my husband called me asking for help when he was back home, and I told him that I didn’t even know what day it was! You don’t deal with the real world when you are there. It has become my passion.”

Mouser and Soupy were co-counselors for 7 camps and specifically in the Wrangler (Survivors ages 11-13) unit since 2000! Teddy kept talking to them about the Camp Mom role and let them know that they already make a great team as counselors and would just be an awesome duo as Camp Moms! They both shared that they have found a best friend in each other through this experience which makes it that much more special!

All three camp moms have dedicated so many years of their lives to the Foundation and have so many funny and moving stories to share! We had to select just a couple to share, but if you ever run into then at an event I am sure they would be more than happy to share so many more!

Teddy shared that her fondest memory is one time that she was at a department store she heard someone yell from across the room, “TEDDY!!!” She turned around and it was a kiddo from camp! “I see one of my camp kids run toward me along with a very panicked mother running after them! I introduced myself and explained how their child knew me. It is a very special feeling I get every time it happens because it still does. Even last year at camp they just run to hug me. Being involved has been one of the greatest joys in my life and it has to do with getting to know the kids.”

Soupy and Mouser shared that they have a self-care routine throughout the week that helps them stay sane throughout all of the stress of making sure everyone is taken care of, and that is … Scaring each other! Soupy says, “Mouser scares very easily so I have a lot of fun with that, but she brought it upon herself because she started it!” They are a duo that just works so effortlessly together, they described it as. “Soupy is very organized and Mouser is like; when are we going to play.” Since 2013, they have gotten in a new routine to make sure they are as organized as possible (took very long at first) so that they can also enjoy being with the survivors and counselors as much as possible! “We’ve been fortunate enough to develop a trust with the counselor and help them by giving advice, listening and not betraying their trust!”

Camps moms are a great example of how impactful camp is not just for the burn survivors but also for the volunteers!

All three of our camp moms are heavily involved year-round with collecting essential items but also being a part of other regional events whenever possible. We would be very empty without our beloved Champ Camp – Camp Moms and there are no words to describe the love and appreciation we have for these three women. The work that you do does not go unnoticed and we are so happy that you all found your way to become part of the AARBF family!

People's Choice Award

AARBF’s People Choice Award for 2020 goes to … Jeff “Ricky Rescue” Martin!!

Ricky Rescue is a retired Gilroy area CAL Fire Firefighter who dedicated himself for 35 years to the fire service. For 31 of those years, he has been involved with AARBF! In 1989, the department was looking for an organization to donate to through their golf tournament and AARBF was the chosen non-profit! During the event, the organization had an ambassador handing out pamphlets and providing more information about the Foundation’s services. Ricky rescue said, “all the information and pictures got me hooked.” Ricky Rescue and Colonel decided to volunteer for Champ Camp that same year and were hooked ever since.

Ricky Rescue was nominated this year for his many years of volunteerism, recruiting many others and for being someone who can always be counted on. He shared that he continues to volunteer with AARBF, “Because it seems to make a difference for the kids to be able to be out and do stuff and not be shy about it. It keeps them active and it is also really cool to meet the families of the survivors.”

Ricky Rescue has not only been a part of Champ Camp for about 30 years and 23 of those years he was a counselor, but he has also joined other events like; the fishing trip, Outdoor trip (has been a part of this one from it’s first year), Holiday parties, Ski Trip, Monterey Bay Aquarium Sleepover, Surf Trip and Burn Relays!

At Champ Camp he mentioned that a funny memory is, “Doing all the dress ups for flag pole is fun, I’m not one that really likes to do it but once you get into it and the kids get involved and excited, it’s cool. I plan to be a part of AARBF as long as I am healthy and able to, I look forward to it!”

We appreciate you always lending a hand and being willing and able to help. We are so grateful for your many years of service, not just to AARBF, but to the community as well! We also look forward to having you be a part our AARBF family for as many years as possible! Thank you, Ricky Rescue!

Ruch Family Circle Award

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!