July 2023 Burn Bulletin

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July 2023 Burn Bulletin

AARBF Returns to Wonder Valley for the 38th Champ Camp

From June 10th – 17th, we had 109 incredible burn survivor campers join us for our week-long summer camp called Champ Camp. This camp is designed to encourage, uplift and empower burn survivor children. Through Champ Camp, many of our campers build lifelong friendships with fellow survivors and gain self-confidence which they carry back into their lives after camp. One of our survivors, Aiden (age 15) states, “Champ Camp is important to me because, “…it lets people feel comfortable no matter their burns… it is a safe place.”

During the week, our campers and counselors had the opportunity to partake in many activities including arts and crafts, our inflatable, floating obstacle course called Atlantis, archery, BB guns, go-carts, mini bikes, horseback riding, and so much more. Special to this year was our Champ Camp Carnival. We had over twenty handmade games built by our incredible program staff and counselors, face painting, bounce houses, a dunk tank and even a magic show! We are so thankful to be able to provide these opportunities to our burn survivors. It is incredible to watch them grow each and every year. We are already counting down the days until we can see them again back at Wonder Valley.

Campers Enjoy Annual Chili Cook-off

On Wednesday, June 14th, we held our annual Chili Cook-off at Champ Camp. We had teams from across the state show up with their favorite chili recipes to win the coveted Champ Camp “Best Chili” Award. We also give an award for “Best Decorated Booth.” Both awards are based on votes by our campers. Our campers really enjoy tasting the chili and meeting the firefighters and other community members. Congratulations to the 2023 Best Chili award winner Bakersfield Fire Department Burn Foundation! Selma Fire was the Best Decorated Booth award winner!

Thank you to all of our participating agencies: CalFire Fresno County Firefighters, Kingsburg City Firefighters, Clovis Firefighters, Santa Clara City Firefighters, Fresno City Firefighters, Kings County Firefighters, Selma City Firefighters, Visalia Firefighters, Bakersfield Fire Department Burn Foundation, Dinuba Firefighters Association, Leon S. Peters Burn Center at Community Regional Medical Center and Central Valley Firefighters Credit Union.

In addition, we had special visitors from the Wind and Fire Motorcycle Group. It is always a pleasure having them ride up to camp and show off their bikes.

Honoring James Bosch

On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, we lost a pivotal and instrumental member of the AARBF and burn family, James “Jamba”/“Bro J”/“Brother J” Bosch.

James’ departure from this Earth leaves a hole in the hearts of innumerable burn survivors and the loved ones of our community. James was the kind of person who made each person he came across feel special, listened to, and important. He had the ability to form connections with people even in the darkest moments of their lives.

On Wednesday, July 12, we held a special virtual remembrance of James. We had almost 160 guests registered for this event.  Guests included members of our AARBF Burn Community, James’ parents, family and friends, as well as friends from across the United States including the American Burn Association and the International Association of Burn Camps. In addition to sharing stories and memories of James, guests were able to watch a video from James that contained his wishes for many of his friends and loved ones. James loved to dance and we celebrated him with a short dance party. Also, within the chat feature, guests were encouraged to enter one word to describe James.

In honor of James and his commitment to providing therapeutic support to burn and trauma survivors, AARBF has renamed our therapy grant program to the James Bosch Therapy Grant and have designated a specific fund for this program. As the family had requested donations to both AARBF and Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors in lieu of flowers, all donations that have already been received by AARBF as well as future donations in James’ memory will be earmarked for this fund and used for therapy grants.

A Celebration of Life is being planned by James’ family and they will be releasing information on it soon.

Introducing Two New Team Members

In June, we added two new members to the AARBF Team. The first will be a familiar face to many within our burn community, Martha Banks, as our Survivor Services Care Manager primarily covering Southern California.

Martha became part of AARBF about fifteen years ago when she began her volunteer services as a Support Group Facilitator. Through the years, she has been involved in supporting Survivor Services, camps, and Christmas parties. Martha completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology at University of Phoenix and her Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree from the National University. Martha also obtained her Drug and Alcohol Certification from the Los Angeles Training Institute for Alcohol and Drug Counseling.  She enjoys working with people and combining valuable resources to achieve a positive outcome. She has experience across a variety of treatment settings including hospitals, private practice, inpatient and outpatient mental health, and substance abuse.

As a burn survivor, she shares a common experience of overcoming a traumatic event with other survivors; she can empathize and understand the challenges that a survivor has faced and continues to face as they navigate their recovery. She understands the struggles and she is eager to provide support, empathy, understanding, compassion, and acceptance to other burn survivors.

Through her involvement with AARBF, Martha’s goal is to help and encourage survivors to break down feelings of isolation and build a sense of community to share experiences and challenges, to promote understanding and acceptance in order to inspire one another and encourage them to thrive.

Martha can be reached at mbanks@aarbf.org.


Our second new team member is Development Director, Elisa Brooke.

Elisa comes to AARBF with over 13 years of development experience.  She brings an unwavering commitment to advancing the missions of non-profit organizations, having previously worked in development for national non-profit California chapters, including Meals on Wheels, Epilepsy Foundation, and Defy Ventures.

Elisa is excited to join the AARBF team as the new Director of Development. She looks forward to the opportunity to interact and work alongside the incredible AARBF Community and to being a part of the continuing growth and impact of AARBF.

She demonstrates a keen understanding of resource mobilization and successful fundraising strategies, resulting in securing significant financial support, enabling each organization to expand their reach and increase their impact to make meaningful change in the communities they serve. In 2022 Elisa and her team won the city’s “Most loved NGO of the year” for their organization. In 2021 she helped lead two statewide trainings for 85 local non-profits on Community Partnerships and Capacity Building. In 2020 Elisa oversaw and managed the nation’s biggest Epilepsy walk and fundraiser. In 2018 Elisa co-created, and secured funding for California’s first ever in-prison dinner program with volunteers.

Elisa has also served as a consultant for non-profit organizations of all sizes, focused on building out strategic fundraising plans and campaigns, expanding outreach, and improving and developing internal structures and programs.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Elisa is committed to giving back to the community. She actively serves on a local board and volunteers for organizations dedicated to improving social welfare and equality.

Elisa can be reached at ebrooke@aarbf.org.

Please help us give a warm welcome to both Martha and Elisa!

Champy-on Exceeded Two Fundraising Goals

The 2023 Champy-on fundraiser met, not one, but two fundraising goals. The original goal was $38,000 in honor of our 38th year of Champ Camp. After that goal was met, our fundraising committee decided to bump up our goal to $50,000 which covers the cost of 50 kids at camp. To achieve the new goal, Champy-on was extended an extra week, ending on the last day of camp, June 17th. With your support, we raised over $53,400! Thank you to our team members, those who shared our campaign link with family and friends, and those who so generously donated to support Champ Camp and our survivors.

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:

Please visit our Events Calendar for support groups available in July and August. Or, contact us at info@aarbf.org for more information.

July 30: Alameda Pancake Breakfast

August 5: Hell of a Half Marathon

September 2-4: Getaway Family Camp

September 8-10: Women’s Empowerment Weekend

September 23: AARBF’s Dinner & Dance

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