September 2023 Burn Bulletin

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September 2023 Burn Bulletin

Staff and Board Meet Up in San Francisco

On August 9-13, AARBF staff, board, and council members held their August in-person retreat in San Francisco. This was the first time many of our team members were able to see the new main office at 44 Montgomery Street.

The staff arrived first in San Francisco and held their team retreat on Wednesday and Thursday. The majority of the time spent was working on planning for 2024 activities as well as reevaluating our system for determining the success of our programs and services through a new formula for measurable outcomes. In between sessions were some great get-to-know-you teambuilding activities. This time together was especially important as we had three new team members in attendance.

On Friday, board and council members arrived at Noon and met up with staff near San Francisco Fire Engine 35. We spent the afternoon with our friends at San Francisco Fire, touring the station and taking a ride around the bay on the fire boat. To finish off the day, the staff and board members enjoyed at night out with local volunteers at the San Francisco Giants game.

On Saturday it was back to business with a joint meeting where staff presented their plans for 2024. At Noon, the staff left for home. The board and council continued their retreat with a guest speaker, burn survivor, Robert Strawder, who shared his story and the impact AARBF has had on his recovery journey. They then heard updates from the committee chairs on their current projects and plans for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024. The board and council ended their retreat on Sunday with their August meeting. It was a quick but productive time together and we look forward to ending 2023 strong!

AARBF Welcomes a New Survivor Services Care Manager

On August 21st, Michael Knopf joined the AARBF Team as the Survivor Services Care Manager based out of San Francisco. Michael is a burn survivor and has spent many years participating in our programs and services.

Michael, along with his father and sister survived a house fire in September of 2000. Sustaining third degree burns over a considerable portion of their bodies, Michael and his sister Lea received treatment at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Burn Unit, where they were soon after introduced to the AARBF. Less than two years after the fire, Michael and his sister attended AARBF’s Champ Camp for the first time. As young burn survivors, Champ Camp exposed them to a vast and welcoming community of supporters and fellow survivors. With such a positive impact on his life, Michael continued to be an active participant in many different AARBF events over the years like: Champ Camp, The Getaway, The Young Adult Summit, The Ski/Surf Trip, and the Aquarium Adventure. With these events being so meaningful to him, it was a natural transition for Michael to become a volunteer when he was finally old enough.

Michael began volunteering at AARBF events at 18, when he became a Counselor-in-Training at Champ Camp. His role was to assist camp counselors with day-to-day tasks, while trying to be a positive role model for younger burn survivors. At that time, Michael also volunteered at the AARBF San Francisco office where he was exposed to the tremendous amount of effort and care the AARBF provides for anyone who is or was affected by burn injuries. He cherished these opportunities as it was a chance to give back in a meaningful way to this organization, which had done so much for him and his family. A few years later, Michael attended Champ Camp as a counselor, where each day he strived to provide the younger generation of burn survivors with the same magical experience he had received as a camper.

Professionally, Michael spent 10 years serving communities in the San Francisco Bay Area in a customer service capacity, at two local bicycle shops. His enthusiasm for bicycles stems from the sense of freedom, adventure and mobility that cycling provided as a child, post-burn injury. His customer-facing role at these bicycle shops allowed him to connect with the local cycling community and become a valuable resource to countless individuals who were at different stages of their cycling journey.

Moving forward, Michael is both honored and excited to take this step as a Survivor Services Care Manager for AARBF, as he knows first-hand how impactful being a beneficiary of the AARBF services can be. With strong relationship building and interpersonal skills, he hopes to utilize his experience and perspective as a burn survivor to make meaningful connections with others who were also affected by burn injuries so that they can receive the best possible support and care throughout their journey.

AARBF and AARP – Partners in Prevention

AARBF’s Andrew Mersmann loves teaming up with AARP for their Virtual DIY HomeFit workshops. This partnership allows us to reach older adults who are looking to age safely at home and our burn prevention education is essential to help them stay safe from fire and burns.

On Friday, July 21st, Andrew participated in a HomeFit workshop, using components of AARBF’s SPARC program. He enjoyed educating and answering questions from the forty-seven attendees.

Click here to learn more about SPARC and watch our social media for more workshop opportunities.

Wildfire Preparedness and Recovery Tools Available

We have all become too familiar with the fact that “Wildfire Season” is year-round in California and across the nation. Helping you and your family know how to respond to an emergency wildfire situation is a huge priority for us at AARBF. We have tools to support you and your family being fire safe. This “Wildfire P.R.E.P.A.R.E.” checklist helps everyone know how to respond before a crisis. Visit our Wildfire Preparedness page to find an important Resource Guide (in both English and Spanish) as well as an easy-to-use checklist so you can feel confident and prepared.

With news stories and conversations all around us when tragic wildfire events happen, we can all get scared. Give yourself some support when discussing fears and crises with children by using our online “Children and Recovery from Wildfires” guidebook to help restore a sense of safety and comfort in their world.

Enjoying Great Food and the Community Spirit in Alameda

On Sunday, July 30th, we were excited to see the return of the annual Alameda Pancake Breakfast. In addition to breakfast, guests were able to get a massage from Baby Lee ( who was a former Champ Camp camper.

While at the event, AARBF’s Daniel Chacon gave lessons on how to Stop, Drop and Roll as well as distributed fire and burn prevention materials and sunblock to about 200 people.

We greatly appreciate the Alameda Firefighters, Local 689 for including us and Baby Lee for providing additional support to AARBF.

Regional Golf Tournaments Support AARBF

The Northern California Fire Prevention Officers are hosting their 13th Annual Golf Tournament on Friday, September 22nd. There is still time to get in on the fun in Fairfield. Play a great round of golf while supporting AARBF’s prevention programming!

Register today at:


For those living in Southern California, the SoCal Golf Tournament is returning for its 40th year on Tuesday, October 3, 2023! The golf tournament will be held at the Black Gold Country Club, 1 Black Gold Dr, Yorba Linda, CA.

The cost is $220 per golfer, this includes golf, cart, dinner, tee gift, and more. If you are unable to make it for a fun day of golf, you can still join us for dinner at 5:00 PM.

Visit the 40th Annual Golf Tournament page for sponsorship and registration information:

The Getaway Family Camp is Coming Up Quickly

In July, AARBF opened the registration for The Getaway Family Camp, which is held over the Labor Day weekend, September 2nd – 4th. The Getaway is open to burn survivors and their families (adult survivors with their spouses and children, child burn survivors with their parents and siblings…all are welcome!) Focus on togetherness and connect with other families through fun and camaraderie, but do not delay, this year’s registration closes August 25th.

Sign up today at, select “Register for a New Session” then select “Getaway Family Camp.”

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 in September and October.

Or, contact us at for more information.

September 22: NorCal FPO Golf Tournament

September 23: AARBF’s Fundraiser Dinner in Clovis

October 3: SoCal Golf Tournament

October 8-14: Fire Prevention Week

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