May 2024 Burn Bulletin

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May 2024 Burn Bulletin

Countdown to Champ Camp

AARBF’s Champ Camp is the largest camp for burn-injured children. It is a large undertaking to bring upwards of 150 children to Wonder Valley each June and we could not accomplish this without the support of our burn community. Whether it’s by volunteering, donating, or participating in one of our activities, the impact is felt by the children who get a week to come together creating memories and friendships that can last a lifetime.

It is not too late to show your support of this awesome camp. Below are opportunities still available.

Amazon Wish List

Each year, our program staff creates a wish list of items needed for arts and crafts, as well as water games and activities. To purchase an item from our Amazon wish list, please click here.

Chili Cook-Off

On Wednesday, June 12, we will host the annual Champ Camp Chili Cook-Off. If you think you have the best chili around, our campers will be the judge. Chili teams will compete for the best chili and best booth. Click here to sign up to participate in our Chili Cook-Off.

Champy-On Fundraiser

Our Champy-On online fundraiser is in full swing. The goal for this year is $39,000 in honor of Champ Camp’s 39th year. Click here to donate or to create or join a fundraising team.

Champ Camp Store

For a limited time, you can purchase AARBF and Champ Camp branded merchandise through our online store. You do not have to attend camp to be able to purchase. Click here to visit the online store before May 17th.

For more information about any of the Champ Camp opportunities available, please contact Erika “Kika” Mendoza at

The Fresno Urban Run Raises over $14,000

Sunday, April 7th, marked the 10th Anniversary of the Fresno Urban Run. This year, with nearly 1000 runners hitting the streets of Downtown Fresno, the run raised over $14,000 for AARBF and Champ Camp. Our volunteer, Scott “Poindexter” Mellon, and the Fresno City Fire Academy Class of 61 were joined by teams from CRMC, AARBF, Fresno City Fire, Selma Fire, Central Valley Firefighters Credit Union, and burn survivor “Chop Suey” as part of the 3.1-mile run/stair climb ending at the historic Grand Hotel.

We are very thankful to the teams and participants of the run and fundraising efforts leading up to race day. Their contribution will help send fourteen children to camp.

AARBF Wins Prevention Award

At the national American Burn Association conference in Chicago April 8th-12th, there was so much learning and connection and collaboration going on with our hospital partners and medical community, fire prevention experts and community risk reduction teams, and several other burn foundations from across the country. It was a deeply inspiring and busy several days. One of the ways AARBF participated this year was to enter a “Prevention Message” poster to get the word out in new ways about being fire-safe. The theme of the poster competition was “Burn Prevention Where You Live, Work, and Play – Preventing Burns in the Homes” Our entry highlights distracted cooking and cell phone usage as a possible cooking hazard and won third place in the national competition.

Women Supporting Women

AARBF hosted the Women’s Empowerment Weekend Retreat from April 18th-21th. We were thrilled to welcome fourteen remarkable and powerful burn survivor women, along with six facilitators and one staff member.

The retreat was packed with eleven different workshops on topics such as relationships, intimacy, mirror work, journaling, manifestation, vocational rehab, empowered accomplishments, and much more. As a group, we were able to explore nature and ground ourselves by taking group walks around Camp Calvin Crest. The retreat provided a safe space for everyone, and the group became one and supported each other throughout the weekend.

We would like to extend a special thank you to our amazing facilitators who demonstrated their deep commitment to WEW 2024: Cindy, Ruth, Wendy, Jill, Brooke, and our facilitators in training (FITs), Quincy and Skittles.

Family Fun in Wonder Valley

On Sunday, April 21st, the Wonder Valley Ranch Resort (and home of Champ Camp) hosted a family fun day. This was a great opportunity to experience all of the great activities available such as, zip line, rock wall, ropes course, waterslides, canoeing, trampolines, go-carts, pony rides, archery, hayrides, swimming, and sport courts. They also had food trucks in partnership with Fresno Street Eats. Proceeds from the event, totaling $4,000 directly benefit Champ Camp. Thank you to Wonder Valley and everyone who attended the Family Fun Day.

Honoring Our Volunteers

On April 21st – 27th, we celebrated Volunteer Appreciation Week (VAW) by honoring our volunteers. While we appreciate our volunteers every week of the year, VAW is an opportunity to highlight the contributions of seven individuals who impacted the foundation for prevention, survivor services, fundraising, and more, within the past year.

Grace-Sonia Melanio is our Burn Prevention Volunteer of the Year in recognition of her work with AARBF through AARP’s HomeFit program.

Grace-Sonia is a community health advocate and public affairs professional based in Silicon Valley. She currently serves as the director of strategy and special projects for the Office of Kat Taylor, enhancing the organization’s impact related to legislative endeavors, philanthropic initiatives, and community programs. Previously, she worked at AARP California, and through their professional development program, became a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) accredited by the National Association of Home Builders. Still inspired by AARP’s mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age, she enjoys volunteering with the organization’s Community Education Team in her spare time.

It was during her time with AARP, Grace-Sonia and AARBF’s Andrew Mersmann teamed up in a series of virtual workshops designed to teach how older individuals can age safely in place using tips from both AARP and AARBF’s SPARC program (Senior Prevention and Risk Conversations). Although Grace-Sonia has moved on from AARP, she still teams with Andrew and AARBF for these virtual workshops.

Grace-Sonia is also honored to serve as a Board Secretary for Asian Women Empowered, a volunteer-run group for Silicon Valley Asian American women, focused on civic engagement, leadership development, and mutual support. Past volunteer community service endeavors include serving on the KQED Community Advisory Board, RotaCare Bay Area, and co-founding South Bay First Thursdays, an Asian American young professionals discussion group.


Hanford Fire Department Firefighter, Scott “Poindexter” Mellon is our Fundraising Volunteer of the Year in recognition of his innovative fundraising on behalf of AARBF.

Scott has been a steadfast supporter of AARBF and Champ Camp. If you want to know how long he has been volunteering at camp, you just need to add up his Champy tattoos. In addition to volunteering, Scott also raises funds through the annual Fresno Urban Run. The Fresno Urban Run is an annual event which celebrated its 10th year in 2024. There would not a relationship between the Fresno Urban Run and AARBF without Scott Mellon.

At this year’s race on April 7th, Scott was recognized for being one of three people who have run the race each year since its inception. After a couple of years of racing on his own, Scott encouraged others in his department to participate. Scott then expanded his recruitment to include students from two local fire academies and created a fundraising challenge which directly benefits AARBF. But that wasn’t enough for Scott. He also reached out to the race coordinators who now donate a portion of the race proceeds to AARBF and Champ Camp.


Ché Ochtli is our Survivor Services Volunteer of the Year in recognition of an unbeatable commitment to strengthening the partnership between AARBF and UCI Health Regional Burn Center…and California at large.

Ché Roble Ochtli is the Burn Program Coordinator at UCI Health Regional Burn Center. With nine years of experience in healthcare and burns, their work lies in collective capacity building, and creating tangible commitments to equity centered care.

It is through this capacity building that Ché has been a fabulous hospital liaison with AARBF. Always looking to go the extra mile, Ché is an advocate in the hospital setting and through community outreach—creating new opportunities for AARBF’s programs and services to reach more people and strengthening the connections among us all. Ché serves on multiple AARBF committees and in 2023, we were delighted to welcome Ché onto our Council of Advisors. This is who you want in your corner any and every time (and just about the kindest soul on the planet, too).

Ché had this to say about receiving the Survivor Services Volunteer award, “Hi everyone I’m Ché! I am deeply thankful and honored by this recognition. It’s been a joy and pleasure to serve the survivor community and I look forward to our continued work to support all those affected by burn injury.”


Clifton Stewart is our Executive Volunteer of the Year. The Executive Award is our way of honoring members of our Board and Council of Advisors for their leadership role within AARBF.

Clifton Stewart, raised in Los Angeles, California, is deeply embedded in both his local community and the broader nonprofit and business sectors. He currently serves as the Vice President of the Board for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and as the President of Friends of Camp Whitsett. Clifton’s contribution as VP of the AARBF board has been immense, and he has furthered the level of his support of the foundation by generously donating his time and expertise to co-chair the AARBF Development Committee and chair the By Laws Committee. In 2022, Clif served as a key lead in AARBF’s statewide 50th Anniversary Fundraiser Celebration.

Professionally, Clifton is a District Manager at Aflac and the Principal of S & S Insurance Solutions, LLC. A proud Eagle Scout and recipient of the Vigil Honor, his roots in the Boy Scouts have shaped his commitment to service and leadership. Clifton is happily married to Jennifer, and together they are proud parents to their 23-year-old daughter, Jordan.


Peter “Chop Suey” Reynaga is our People’s Choice Volunteer of the Year. He received this honor based on numerous nominations from the AARBF burn community.

Peter is a Central Valley native, having grown up in Fresno. He was first introduced to the Alisa Ann Burn Foundation after suffering burns in a car accident at the age of 14, where during his recovery, he was introduced to fellow survivors and AARBF volunteers. The following year, Peter attended his first event, the Ski trip. During the remainder of his teens, he participated in Champ Camp, YAS, the Outdoor trip, the Ski trip, and many other AARBF events. After aging out of Champ Camp “Chop Suey” spent one year as a CIT and had been a counselor at Champ Camp every year he wasn’t deployed as a seasonal Firefighter with CAL Fire.

Peter has been a dedicated volunteer with AARBF for the Central Valley Burn Relay, most of our outdoor activity trips, as well as the Clovis Dinner and Dance. It is his readiness to participate in the Camps and Recreation events, helping with youth survivors of all ages that makes Peter our People’s Choice Volunteer for 2024.

When asked why he continues to give of his time, Peter reflected on an interaction from last year’s Champ Camp in which one of his senior campers expressed how impactful their time was at camp. He saw in real time how the community that grows in just a short week builds a connection that transcends time and distance from friends. This is what Peter himself experienced as a young survivor, and because he can help foster that in the next generation, he returns every year.


Selena “Pookie” Brown is our Champy-On Volunteer of the Year. Our Champy-On award is presented in recognition of someone who has been an essential person to Champ Camp for 10 or more years.

Selena attended Champ Camp for the first time in 2005 as a counselor for young female burn survivors and until this day she remains a fixture in the Champ Camp experience. Selena embodies the Champ Camp spirit with her positivity and enthusiasm. She has never hesitated to wear a silly costume or be part of our many ridiculous but entertaining skits and by doing so, inspires others to do the same.

Over the years Selena and Woodside Fire Department has helped us with several fundraising opportunities like our Burn Relays and she has participated in our Bows for Dough fundraiser solidifying her as the recipient for this year’s Champy-On Award.

Selena has more recently accepted the role as one of the Counselor in Training unit leaders where she continues to be a tremendously valuable peer and ally to young burn survivors ages 18-20 at events like Champ Camp and The Young Adult Summit. Her continued support of the burn survivor community over the years has had a profound and positive impact on the lives of many young burn survivors, always uplifting those around her with contagious levels of fun and passion.


Russ Charvonia is the 2024 recipient of the Ruch Family Circle Volunteer of the Year. The Ruch Family Circle is the most prestigious award that we present, awarded to someone who has been instrumental to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, for 10 or more years.

In June of 2014, Russ and his wife, Linda, attended Champ Camp for a night where they were able to see and interact with campers and counselors, which lead to AARBF becoming very near and dear to their hearts. This took Russ down the path to ways in which he could support AARBF and our burn community. As Grand Master of the Masons in California, Russ was instrumental in raising $250,000 for our FISE program. In 2016, Russ joined our Board of Directors and became our Board President in 2020. In addition to serving on our board and raising funds for the foundation, he also generously donated his time to our southern region. From day-to-day administrative tasks to attending regional events, we could always count on Russ.

Although Russ’ board term ended this year, he is still very much involved with the foundation, meeting regularly with and mentoring our Development Director as well as providing guidance to our new Board President. We are honored and very fortunate to have Russ as a part of the AARBF family and we appreciate his many years of support in a variety of ways to the Foundation.

Spring Into Preparedness

Spring is in full bloom and all the plants and shrubs and trees are pushing all their energy into explosive growth. This is the perfect time to keep things trimmed and tidy and be sure you always maintain a defensible space for wildfire safety. Vegetation management to reduce fire risk is not hard, but you will want to keep it up. Zone 0 is from the walls of your structure out 5 feet, and the goal is to keep this as an ember-resistant zone. Think about hardscapes–using gravel, pavers, or concrete instead of mulch that can catch fire and burn quickly. Clear out dead weeds and grasses, keep branches and bushes trimmed 10 feet back from chimneys, and store firewood farther away from the home, not stacked against the wall. Just keeping an eye out for safety might inspire you to make some great new landscape choices. Remember, wildfire season is year-round.

If you’d like to see more resources for wildfire preparedness, visit our website at

Educational Scholarships Available

Attention Trade School, Junior College, and College Students (or those planning to be enrolled in the 2024/2025 academic year)…

It is time to start thinking about the AARBF “Bridge to Life” Scholarship offered by the Woody and Louise Reed family to support burn survivors and their family members pursuing higher education.

It is money for school, and it is available to you to apply!

We know you’ve got finals and classes and projects and…LIFE…this year, but a little bit of planning now can make next year smoother sailing.

Applications are now open:

And if you are pursuing a master’s degree or PhD, you can use the same application to apply for the “Aiming Higher” scholarship for burn survivors, sponsored by Care Plans for Life, LLC.

And if the application get sticky for you, your Care Managers, Martha and Michael, are always ready to help. Just reach out.

Champ Camp Registration is Filling Quickly

Champ Camp will be held at the Wonder Valley Resort in Sanger on June 8th – 15th. Camp is open to burn survivor children, ages 5-17. It is a great place for kids to be kids, making lasting friendships.

Register your child today at, select “Register for a New Session” then select “Champ Camp – Camper 2024.”

For questions, please contact Erika “Kika” Mendoza at

If you would like to support these young burn survivors, please consider joining or forming a team as part of our Champy-On fundraiser. Click here to register or make a one-time donation.

Martha Banks: The Power of Support

2023 was an amazing year filled with many beautiful moments and changes. One such moment includes when Martha Banks joined the AARBF Team as the new Survivor Care Manager.

In this video link above, Martha opens up and shares her experience of being a child burn survivor. Included in her story was how meeting James Bosch, an AARBF staff member and burn survivor, influenced her life. James visited her in the hospital while she was being treated for her burn injuries and remained a resource to her as she began her survivor journey. This care management had a profound impact on Martha which inspired her throughout her life and ultimately led her to come back to AARBF as an adult to provide that same support and care to other burn survivors.

The Power of Support is something we value here at AARBF and strive to provide to our burn survivor community. From support groups to the newly named, James Bosch Therapy Grant, we assist our survivors and their family members as they navigate their own journey.

Bocce Ball Fundraiser

We are so very grateful for the generous support of South San Francisco Fire who hosted their annual Bocce Ball fundraiser benefitting AARBF. We appreciate their continued support and invaluable partnership. We also thank the fabulous sponsors who helped make this event a success.

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:

Did you know applications for all of our 2024 overnight retreats and camps are open? To find events, details, dates, and the link to the application, click here for our camps and recreation page.

We have a new schedule for our support groups. Please click here to see what has changed for 2024.

Or, contact us at for more information.

May 27: All AARBF Offices will be closed

June 8-15: Champ Camp

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