December 2023 Burn Bulletin

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December 2023 Burn Bulletin

Gathering Toys for the Holidays in the Central Valley

During November, AARBF partnered with five groups in the Central Valley for our Central CA Holiday Toy Drive. These hard-working groups spent the month collecting new, unwrapped toys that were earmarked for our AARBF-CRMC Holiday Party on Saturday, December 2nd.

Our teams included Coalinga Firefighters and their Facility Support Dog Murphy, Nurses, and Staff at the Leon S Peters Burn Center at CRMC, Sierra High School California Scholarship Federation, and National University Student Nursing Association Cohort 29. In addition, community members could donate financially with funds being used for purchasing gift cards for older kids, teens, and adult survivors

Several community members also donated bikes in a variety of sizes to be raffled off at the party with helmets donated by the City of Fresno Fire Department.

A Season of Wellness

Holidays can be challenging for Burn Survivors.  To assist our burn community, Care Manager Martha Banks shared weekly tips through our social media as a “#TipTuesday” series of posts.

If you are feeling sad, anxious, or depressed, we have strategies you can practice.

Tip 1: Find a Volunteer Opportunity

Feeling engaged and having a sense of purpose will allow you to feel connected with others. Many organizations offer volunteer opportunities during the holiday season not only in person but virtually too! Volunteer and connect with others!

Tip 2: Practice Self-Care

Prioritize your physical and mental health. Dedicate some time of your day to do what you enjoy the most and makes you happy. It can be reading, walking, hiking, exercising, or practicing your hobby. It can help to reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or isolation. Your mental health is very important; Prioritizing it is essential!

Tip 3: Stay Connected

Reach out to family, friends, and support groups. Engaging in simple, casual, or fun conversations is important.  Stay connected is crucial! It can help to deal with sadness and depression during the holidays. Don’t think about it—Just connect!

Tip 4: Create a New Tradition

Traditions are something that brings you happiness and a sense of belonging. To decorate your home, cook a special meal, or create a special ritual. Which tradition can you create that may bring you joy?

Remember, AARBF is here for you through this season and into the next. We encourage you to seek help if you feel overwhelmed. Seek support from a therapist or join our support groups. Support groups offer a safe space to express feelings and emotions. Allow other burn survivors to connect with you and share with you their experiences on how to navigate through the holiday season. Creating a strong support system can make a difference. And if you wish to seek support from a therapist, we can help! We offer therapy grants to offset the out-of-pocket expenses you may encounter. Visit our website at to apply for the James Bosch Therapy Grant.

Year-Long Partnership Concludes

On November 10th, Job’s Daughters International of California (JDI) concluded their 2023 Community Project which included the sale of adorable stuffed Dalmatian puppies. At their annual Installation of Officers, it was announced the fundraising project had raised over $11,000 for AARBF and Champ Camp! AARBF’s Daniel Chacon was honored to be a guest at the event and the opportunity to thank JDI for their dedication and support of AARBF and Champ Camp!

Drums for Julian

During this past Champ Camp, a camper named Julian was talking to a retired Fresno Firefighter, Freddie, who also is a musician, about his interest in playing the drums. Unfortunately, due to Julian’s injury, he was left with severely damaged digits on both of his hands. After talking with Julian, Freddie was convinced that he could still hold a drumstick. With a wave of determination to make a burn survivor’s dreams come true, Freddy took the drumming dream and ran with it. A few weeks later he contacted AARBF to inform us that he had a donated drum set for Julian. After checking with Mom, we loaded it up in a truck and took it down to him. McKenzie “Bubbles” and Pete “Cobra” were able to be a part of this momentous day. They say they have never seen somebody so excited about a new hobby. Julian’s face lit up as soon as the team pulled into his driveway. Happy drumming Juian!

A Match Made on Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, November 28th, we let you know we had a generous donor provide us with an opportunity to receive a match of up to $5,000 in honor of Giving Tuesday. We sent the word out via email and on our social media accounts and you, our supporters, did not disappoint! On Giving Tuesday, we raised $4,885. Since we were so close, our match donor let us give it one more try and we got enough additional donations to take us over the $5,000 goal! Thank you for supporting our mission and for doubling your impact on AARBF!

If you have not yet made your year-end donation, there is still time. Donations can be made securely online at or by mail to Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, 44 Montgomery Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94104. Thank you!

Erika “Kika” Mendoza Returns to the AARBF Team

On November 16th, Erika Mendoza rejoined the staff at AARBF as the new Camps and Recreation Manager. Erika has been a part of the AARBF family since attending her first Champ Camp in 1999 as a recent burn survivor. After experiencing the unconditional love and support within the burn community, Erika and her family continued their involvement through burn survivor events and started volunteering in 2011. Due to the positive impact the foundation had on her and her family, her loved ones also began volunteering.

Erika initially joined AARBF staff in 2018, when she took on the role of Central California Regional Manager. Her passion for survivor services and prevention flourished even more within this position and she soon realized that she wanted to continue to grow her knowledge and skills to best support AARBF and the burn community in as many ways as possible. Set on pursuing both professional and organizational development, Erika accepted the role of Resource Development Manager for AARBF at the beginning on 2020. At the end of 2021, Erika was faced with the hard decision of moving back to Arizona and pausing her staff role with AARBF. Through this move, Erika continued to seek and broaden her involvement within the burn community through a new opportunity with the Arizona Burn Foundation and rejoining the volunteer pool with AARBF.

In addition to staff involvement within the burn community, Erika has extensively worked with children, families and the community in general as a teacher, parent educator, clinician and health education coordinator. Educationally, Erika is bilingual due to her upbringing and minor in Spanish. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Family Studies and Human Development from The University of Arizona and has also obtained a Master’s of Science degree in Family and Human Development from Arizona State University.

With her ability to empathize in addition to well development skills in understanding the healing that comes from recreation and social activities, she is beyond excited to resume her employment in this new role. Her time with AARBF has come full circle and being able to return in a new and stimulating capacity is a true honor. Erika truly embodies and aligns with the mission and vision of the foundation and aspires to continue to promote healing and empowerment within the burn community.

AARBF Bids a Fond Farewell to McKenzie “Bubbles” Dern

All of us at AARBF are exceptionally grateful for McKenzie “Bubbles” Dern and the huge impact she has had on our team and community. As of October 20th, McKenzie has moved on from her staff position with the foundation but will be with us at future events and programs.

McKenzie joined the staff in January 2020 and this year segued into her role as Camps and Recreation Manager. McKenzie’s family perspective as the daughter of a burn survivor has always been valued, as is her infectious high energy and deep connection to the people we serve and the amazing core of volunteers who make our programs what they are. It was always her priority that no survivor or their family feels alone through the process of healing, surviving, and ultimately thriving.

Unlike the ones made of soap, this Bubble will never pop and disappear, and we cannot wait until the next time we all gather at camp and other recreation events. We wish McKenzie every good fortune and inspiration in her new endeavor. They are lucky to have her.

Holiday Party Registration was Announced in October

You are invited to join us at one of the four holiday parties being offered in December. Registration is required, so please let us know you will be joining us by clicking on the link for your nearest location below:

Central Valley/CRMC—December 2, 11:00 am-2:00 pm at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds.  Register today at:

Southern California—December 3, 11:00 am-2:00 pm at the Shrine Auditorium Dining Room. Register today at:

San Jose/SCVMC—December 9, 11:00 am-2:00 pm at the San Jose Masonic Center. Register today at:

East Bay/Bay Area—December 10, 11:00 am-2:00 pm at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco. Register today at:


For questions, please contact us at

Join us in Clovis

It is not too late to join us on Saturday, September 23rd for AARBF’s Fundraiser Dinner in Clovis. Doors open at 5 PM. Tickets are advanced purchase only.

The AARBF’s Fundraiser Dinner is a fantastic night filled with silent, live, and dessert auctions, a cash bar, catered dinner, with a lot of friends all coming together to support the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and Champ Camp.

To purchase your tickets, please visit our event page at:

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to McKenzie Dern at

Volunteer Opportunties:

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Events:

Please visit our Events Calendar for support groups available.

Or, contact us at for more information.

December 25 – January 1: ALL AARBF Offices closed

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