April 2022 Burn Bulletin

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April 2022 Burn Bulletin

As we bid adieu, Thank You to Jennifer Radics-Johnson!

March 23, 2022, marked the end of Jennifer Radics-Johnson’s tenure as AARBF’s Executive Director.

Jennifer lifted AARBF to a higher standard (literally spearheaded AARBF to become accredited by the Standards for Excellence Institute). She shaped our positive culture by promoting diversity and inclusivity within our board, staff, and programs. She secured innovative funding, including more than $600K in FEMA grants for burn prevention education, and thereby doubling our Foundation’s budget in her tenure with us.

In the nearly ten years that Jennifer was with us, she was a pivotal asset in representing our organization in the burn community. Jennifer started the California Burn Foundations Association with the hope of uniting and creating a collaboration of the 11 burn foundations throughout California. Jennifer served as Chairperson for the Federation of Burn Foundations, an association of burn foundations throughout North America. She was an excellent representative of AARBF at the annual American Burn Association’s Conference with her poster presentations, abstracts, and by serving as the ABA’s Burn Prevention Committee Chair.

Jennifer served as the face of our organization in a professional capacity, but she wasn’t too demure to have some fun by dressing in costume and being goofy for Champ Camp skits and still enjoyed helping to build new programs like AARBF’s Women’s Empowerment Retreat.

Jennifer was truly a “Jane of all trades” and we will miss her dearly. AARBF wishes Jennifer the best in all her future endeavors!

AARBF Board of Directors Names New Executive Director

On March 28, 2022, the AARBF Board of Directors announced the selection of Daniel “Apollo” Chacon as the new Executive Director of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation

The Hiring Committee filtered through 90 applicants, eventually interviewing 12 people. After thorough deliberation within the Hiring Committee and the Board of Directors, it was clear that Daniel was the best fit for the role and the foundation’s future.

Daniel’s new role was effective April 1, 2022. We are excited to see the impact Daniel will have moving forward! Congratulations!

2021 Annual Report and Year in Review Video

In March, AARBF released its 2021 Annual Report. This was accompanied by a video showcasing the programs and activities from last year.

To download a copy of our 2021 Annual Report please visit our website at: https://secureservercdn.net/

The 2021 Year in Review video can be found on our YouTube Channel or our website at: https://www.aarbf.org/about-us/gallery/.

Celebrating National Read Across America Day

On March 2, 2022, AARBF celebrated National Read Across America Day by encouraging our social media followers to reap the benefits of reading with their children. Studies have shown reading aloud to and with your child has several benefits such as, improved language skills, preparation for academic success, increased concentration and discipline, and improved imagination and creativity. Helping your child cultivate a lifelong love of reading can also create a special bond with your child.

We encourage and invite you to share AARBF’s “Meet the Johnsons” book series with a special child in your life. This series not only provides you an opportunity to read aloud with your child, but also provides important safety lessons regarding fire and burn prevention. We also have downloadable, print-ready coloring sheets based on the beloved Johnson family characters.

To learn more about the “Meet the Johnsons” book series and to start reading with your child today, please visit our website at https://www.aarbf.org/burn-prevention/meet-the-johnsons/.


Southern California Survivors Enjoy the Last of Winter Weather

On March 4-6, 2022, burn survivor youth from our Southern California region got to spend the weekend together on the Southern California Ski Trip! We had 12 burn survivors, ten from Southern, CA and two from Bakersfield, join us at the China Peak Mountain Resort. In addition to simply having the opportunity to be together in-person, the weekend was filled with activities such as riding on the snow lifts, skiing and snowboarding, fun on the Bunny Hill, snow ball fights, and lunch at China Peak. Off of the slopes, we enjoyed playing Jenga, Giant Uno and other fun board games!

We are very thankful to China Peak Mountain Resort for the rentals, lift tickets, ski and snowboard lessons, and lunch on Saturday. We also appreciate Trever “T-Man” Martinusen and Shari “Do-Re-Me” Martinusen of the Bakersfield Firefighters Burn Foundation who donated and cooked all of the delicious food!

This weekend adventure would not have been possible without amazing volunteers who helped make this weekend a memorable experience for everyone: Stacey “Snoopy” Shames, Chris “Buc” McKeever, Fabiola “Hamster” Veleport, Jasmine “Rajah” Velaport, Peter “Chop Suey” Reynaga, and Kim “Shred” Tran. Shred and his sister, Lynn Sparkman, also donated snow gear for all of the kiddos! Thank you also to our wonderful staff in attendance, Daniel “Apollo” Chacon and Katie “Popcorn” Szymczak, as well as Margarita “Cubby” Rodriguez who helped with all of the planning.

Spending the Morning with Clovis Kiwanis

Central Regional Manager, McKenzie Dern had the pleasure of spending the morning of March 10, 2022, with our friends from the Clovis Kiwanis. While there, they presented McKenzie with a check for $1,100. This check was for the proceeds from the AARBF Dinner and Dance cash bar. Thank you, Bruce Wilson (2021-2022 President) and everyone from Clovis Kiwanis for your support of AARBF!

AARBF Enjoyed a Second Weekend in the Snow with Our Northern and Central Survivors

March 11-13, 2022, marked the first AARBF Bear Valley Ski Trip in nearly three years, bringing 27 burn survivors up the mountain for a weekend of activities. We kicked of the weekend with dinner and a bike raffle from Stockton Fire, with one of our survivors winning a bike that he will be able to use and cherish for years! From there, we convoyed up to Murphy’s Fire Training Center, which we would use as our home base. Saturday was a full one, waking up early for breakfast then off to Bear Valley Skyline Resort for the main event. They were gracious enough to provide us with ski and snowboard rentals, lessons and lift tickets for all of our campers and counselors and even a fabulous lunch at the top of the mountain! After that, we went to Bear Valley Snowmobile and met up with Bear Valley Public Safety and several community volunteers who assisted our group with snowmobiling fun. We got to try several different snowmobiles, atvs and side-by-sides. We finished our night where we started, having an incredible tri-tip dinner with our friends at Ebbetts Pass Fire Department and with the wonderful Arnolds Angels. The next morning, we woke up and got to close our trip as we always do with a walk-through Murphy’s and time to reflect together on this incredible trip and all of the effort that our volunteers, donors and supporters put into it. We made one last stop on the way home, enjoying a delicious barbecue lunch and tons of snacks from the Manteca Fire Department.

Thank you to our wonderful AARBF Counselors: Jack Rabbit, Alpine, Armstrong, Baby Bear, Bubbles, Cannonball, Cobra, Day, Grizzy, Pretzel, Rascal and last but certainly not least, Ricky Rescue.

We’d also like to say a huge thank you to our Ski Trip supporters: Arnolds Angels, Bear Valley Public Safety, Bear Valley Skyline Resort, Bear Valley Snowmobile, Ebbetts Pass Fire Department, Manteca Fire Department, Murphy’s Fire Department, and Stockton Fire Department.

Lucky the Fire Burping Dragon Meets World Puppetry Day

March 21, 2022, was World Puppetry Day. AARBF marked the occasion by shining a light on our very own puppet, Lucky the Fire Burping Dragon! You and the little ones in your life can experience the magic of puppetry as you watch Lucky learn about fire and burn safety from his friend, Firefighter Dave.

To watch the show, visit our website at https://www.aarbf.org/burn-prevention/lucky-the-fire-burping-dragon/ .

World Puppetry Day Fun Fact:  Kermit is the most popular puppet of all time. Kermit has appeared on various television shows, like “The Muppet Show” and even “The Tonight Show.”

AARBF Hosts First Women’s Empowerment Weekend

On March 19-20, 2022, AARBF hosted a new weekend retreat focusing on the unique challenges faced by burn survivor adult women. We had 11 in attendance for this new program. During the day, we hosted workshops on various topics ranging from self-love to relationships, to work environment tips and tricks. Women from all walks of life, at all different stages of healing, and from all across California came together and created a beautiful environment for continued growth and healing. At night we were able to continue to build connections over a delicious dinner, followed by a support group back at our hotel. The weekend was full of empowerment, self-discovery, confidence building and above all, lots of love!

We would like to extend a warm thank you to our three facilitators; Cindy Rutter, Wendy Domster and Dr. Ruth Rimmer. This weekend has been a dream of theirs for a while and it was amazing to see it come together. And lastly, a huge thank you to our two volunteers; Brooke and Christie. These two amazing ladies were the glue to all of the logistics for the weekend. They were there every step of the way. Whether it was running to pick up participants from the airport or heading to the store to grab a forgotten item, they were true rock stars.

Family Fun in Wonder Valley

Wonder Valley, the home of Champ Camp, hosted a Family Fun Day on March 20, 2022. AARBF’s Daniel “Apollo” Chacon and Katie “Popcorn” Szymczak had a wonderful time visiting with the over 1,000 guests and providing information about Champ Camp and the other programs and services AARBF provides. Although some guests had to wait as much as two hours for the zip lines and go carts, everyone still had a great time during the Family Fun Day. Thank you, Wonder Valley for providing a day for families to enjoy your fabulous resort and your continued support of Champ Camp and AARBF!

Creating Kindness Through Uplifting Content

On March 24, 2022, Andrew “Monkey” Mersmann led a group of ten participants in a Writing Expression session on how to write to inspire others. He showed us how we could turn our love of writing into a way to create kindness through uplifting content. Thank you, Andrew, for showing us how to use the written word to help us navigate in a rough world!

We are so very thankful for Andrew’s continued support of our Writing Expression. A video of this session will be available soon in the Multimedia Resource Library on our website, where you can also find a video of Andrew’s last session!

Watch for social media for announcements on this month’s Music Expression session scheduled for Thursday, April 28, 2022.

Woody and Louise Reed Bridge to Life Educational Scholarships

The Woody and Louise Reed Bridge to Life Scholarship program provides support to burn survivors and their family members who have been involved in the life of AARBF and need financial aid to pursue an education after high school.

The purpose of this program is to “bridge” the gap between the existing programs AARBF provides for survivors and higher education. The scholarship program provides financial assistance to those survivors seeking education beyond high school, whether it is at a university or technical institution.

To learn if you are eligible, visit our website at https://www.aarbf.org/project/bridge-to-life-scholarship/ and download the application. Applications for scholarships are open now through June 25, 2022. All requirements are included in the application.

Registration Opens for Family Day at the Park

At AARBF, we believe that recreational activities aid in the healing process. The time we spend being able to relax and let go of our cares for a few hours is the best kind of self-care. We invite our burn survivors and camp volunteers to join us on Saturday, May 14, 2022, for our Family Day at the Park. We have three regional events taking place on the same day. Come out and spend a few hours with old and new friends, enjoy a meal, and play some games!

Visit our website at: https://www.aarbf.org/project/family-day-at-the-park/, find your region and register today. We look forward to seeing you!

The Fresno Urban Run is Raising Funds for AARBF and Champ Camp

The teams competing in this year’s Fresno Urban Run are already working hard leading up to the challenge on May 1, 2022. The teams are Hanford Fire Department Firefighters (Scott Mellon), Fresno City College (FCC) Fire Academy students, and College of the Sequoias (COS) Fire Academy students. So far, they have raised over $4,400.00 for AARBF and Champ Camp!

What is the Fresno Urban Run?
Starting inside of Chukchansi Park, they will be put to the challenge of climbing every step from the bottom to the top of the stadium, followed by a run up a 6-story circular garage and then down an adjacent 6-story circular garage, proceeded by a 1 mile run down Fulton Street to the Tuolumne Overpass (Urban Hill), before the final challenge, climbing 220 stairs to the top of a 10-story building, The Grand Tower, where the timing sensor will stop the clock! Overall length of the Urban Run is approximately three Miles.  Participants are released to begin one at a time with three to five seconds between each runner.  First runner will be released at 8:00am.

You can help support these teams and Champ Camp by donating to one (or all) of the teams! Visit https://p2p.onecause.com/aarbffresnourbanrun2022, scroll down to the leaderboard, and click on the donate tab for the team of your choice. Contact Katie Szymczak at kszymczak@aarbf.org for more information.

Team Building Has Begun for Champy-On

Our Champy-On fundraiser will begin on April 15, 2022. Participants in this year’s challenge are already working on building their teams. We will be announcing different challenges throughout the campaign for a chance to win variety of prizes (and bragging rights!), including our first ever – official Champy-On Mascot trophy signed by our kiddos – to our ultimate winner!

Sign up to be our ultimate Champy-On winner today and help us send 50 kids to camp! Our registration page has officially gone live and you can register here, https://p2p.onecause.com/champyon22.

The campaign will run from April 15th – June 10th. Together, we can send 50 kids to Champ Camp!

Join Us for a Champ Camp Counselor Reunion

Champ Camp counselors, both past and present, are invited to bring their families and join us for an “All Champ Camp Counselor Reunion” on Saturday, July 23, 2022, at Mike “Colonel” Sanders’ home in Morgan Hill, CA.

We will be serving hamburgers, hot dogs, water and some soft drinks. If you plan on attending this once in a lifetime event, please bring some other kinds of food to share with the group.  (Your choice – appetizer, casserole, salad, dessert, or anything else you might want to share with the group).

The theme for this event will be: “One Big Happy Champ Camp Family” (you know we have to have a theme). Since this is a Champ Camp Counselor Reunion, plan on there being group skits, songs and several other surprises throughout the event. Please wear an old Champ Camp shirt.

There are several hotels in the area if you want to stay in town. Colonel has about 8 acres of flat ground if you wish to bring a trailer, motorhome or whatever you want to sleep in.  He does not have power, water or dumping facilities.

Volunteer Opportunties:

Please check with your regional office for more information on upcoming volunteer opportunities.

For Northern California, please contact Scott “Scooter” Wertz at swertz@aarbf.org or 415-495-7223 Ext. 19

For Central California, please contact McKenzie “Bubbles” Dern at mdern@aarbf.org or 559-286-0710 Ext. 15

For Southern California, please contact Margarita “Cubby” Rodriguez at mrodriguez@aarbf.org or 818-848-0223 Ext. 16

Upcoming Events:

April 15 – June 10: Champy-On Fundraiser, contact Katie “Popcorn” Szymczak at 818-848-0223 Ext. 14 or kszymczak@aarbf.org for more information

April 17-23: Volunteer Appreciation Week


May 1: (1:30pm – 3:30pm), SoCal Survivors Online Support Group, contact Margarita “Cubby” Rodriguez at mrodriguez@aarbf.org or 818-848-0223 Ext. 16 to receive log-in information.

May 1: Fresno Urban Run, contact Katie “Popcorn” Szymczak at 818-848-0223 Ext. 14 or kszymczak@aarbf.org for more information

May 3: (7:00pm – 8:30pm), Santa Clara Valley Medical Online Support Group, contact Scott “Scooter” Wertz at swertz@aarbf.org or 415-495-7223 Ext. 19 to receive log-in information.

May 5: (7:00pm – 8:30pm), Caregiver Support Group – Online Video Support, contact Daniel “Apollo” Chacon at 415-495-7223 Ext. 18 or dchacon@aarbf.org to receive log-in information.

May 10: (6:00pm – 7:30pm), Fresno Community Regional Medical Center Online Support Group, contact McKenzie “Bubbles” Dern at mdern@aarbf.org or 559-286-0710 Ext. 15 to receive log-in information.

May 11: (6:30pm – 8:00pm), North/East Bay Burn Online Support Group, contact Scott “Scooter” Wertz at swertz@aarbf.org or 415-495-7223 Ext. 19 to receive log-in information.

May 12: (7:00pm – 8:30pm), Burn Care Professionals Support Group, contact Daniel “Apollo” Chacon at 415-495-7223 Ext. 18 or dchacon@aarbf.org to receive log-in information.

May 14: Family Day at the Park, contact your regional manager for more information.

May 17: (7:00pm – 8:30pm), Spanish-Speaking Online Burn Survivor Support Group, contact Margarita “Cubby” Rodriguez at mrodriguez@aarbf.org or 818-848-0223 Ext. 16 to receive log-in information.

May 19: (7:00pm – 8:30pm), Statewide Support Group – Online, contact Daniel “Apollo” Chacon at 415-495-7223 Ext. 18 or dchacon@aarbf.org to receive log-in information.

May 26: (11:30am – 1:00pm), Saint Francis Online Support Group, contact Scott “Scooter” Wertz at swertz@aarbf.org or 415-495-7223 Ext. 19 to receive log-in information.

May 26: (7:00pm – 8:30pm), Movement Expression, contact Daniel “Apollo” Chacon at 415-495-7223 Ext. 18 or dchacon@aarbf.org.

If you missed any of our past Burn Bulletins, please check out our archives.