Meet the AARBF Board of Directors
“While all of us came to AARBF via different routes and purposes, we are all inextricably tied to one another through our commitment to improve the lives of Californians.”
– Russ Charvonia, AARBF Board President 2020-2021
These past few years have been perhaps the most challenging in our 50-year history. I am Russ Charvonia and I have had the privilege and honor of serving as the Board President for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation during this time, and I am proud to say we have not once waivered from our mission. Thanks to supporters like you we have not curtailed any services. You see, in times such as these, our communities need the Foundation more than ever. We made it through and will continue to thrive thanks to our great staff, a dedicated Council of Advisors, a strong Board of Directors, resilient burn survivors and families, and generous supporters. I would like to introduce you to some of my fellow Board Members, so you can gain a better understanding of the strong leadership and the golden hearts that help steer this organization. And if, like me you are excited about all the Foundation has achieved, I’d like to ask you to consider making a meaningful donation today to ensure that AARBF continues to support those affected by burn-injuries throughout California, and to help us celebrate our 50th anniversary this year.
A night at Champ Camp changed my life. I am a proud California Mason. In 2013, my wife Linda and I attended the annual Masonic Firefighter’s Appreciation Night in San Luis Obispo. Seated at the same table as Morro Bay Fire Chief Steve Knuckles, a game of burn injury trivia began. Chief Knuckles whispered all the answers in my ear, so we obviously did very well! In June 2014, Linda and I were invited to attend Champ Camp for a night, where we interacted with campers and counselors. AARBF immediately became very near and dear to our hearts. As Grand Master of Masons in California, I was thrilled to help raise $250,000 to support AARBF’s burn prevention efforts. My ultimate dream is to put Champ Camp out of business. I want to end the unnecessary suffering caused by burn injuries. If we do a good enough job in preventing another child from ever being burned, then we have done our jobs and we can put Champ Camp into the archives.
Putting his financial acumen to work to grow AARBF. Mike has been involved with AARBF since 2011, when his wife Maureen “Dazzle” Bradley started as a counselor at Champ Camp. Mike volunteered for AARBF in 2013 when he joined AARBF’s Finance Committee, offering his 30+ years of experience in tax preparation, bookkeeping, and business planning. He has a passion for improving processes whether in his career or with philanthropy, looking to streamline functionality with financial aspects in mind. As AARBF’s Board Vice President, Mike is excited to assist AARBF and our mission.
Giving back after burns changed her life. On September 4, 2000, Lea Elder woke up to the sound of her younger brother Michael screaming. A spark from the dryer had ignited a fire in their home. Unfortunately, the smoke alarm batteries had been removed because they had been chirping at night. Lea suffered burns over 25% of her body. In 2001, Lea and her brother attended their first Champ Camp. Champ Camp offered Lea a fun and loving environment where she met other burn survivors and could just be a kid. Lea’s burn injury and her involvement with Champ Camp inspired her career as a nurse in the burn unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Today she works beside the nurses who once cared for her and her younger brother, caring for burned injured patients and saving lives. She serves as AARBF’s Board Treasurer, attends as many regional events as possible, fundraises, co-facilitates the Santa Clara Valley Medical Support Group, and is a SOAR coordinator! She has so much love and passion for AARBF and Champ Camp that she was married at Wonder Valley Ranch where camp is held every year.
A passion for working with the youth lead to the Young Adult Council. Cara is a Marriage and Family Therapist at the Burn Center at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, where she assists with outreach, recovery (physical and psychological), burn injury prevention and support. Cara found AARBF while seeking a summer camp for children who were treated at the burn unit in Nevada. She has participated in a number of AARBF events, including Champ Camp and Young Adult Summit. Every year Cara champions AARBF programs to UMC patients to encourage them to attend AARBF events throughout the year to enhance their growth and development. Cara spearheaded the creation of AARBF’s Young Adult Council, a group of dedicated burn survivors ages 16-20 years who serve as an advisory council for the Board of Directors, and she serves as a the liaison between AARBF’s Board of Directors and the Young Adult Council, in addition to being Board Secretary.
An AARBF Lifer. In the early 1990s Andrew was hired as an actor to perform in a touring educational theatre show sponsored by AARBF, called “The Burn Show.” They performed at elementary school assemblies to teach kids about fire and burn safety. For eight years he was known by school children as “Manfred the Firefighting Vampire.” After years away on the East Coast, he returned to California and served on the Board of Directors, with a term as Board President, and is currently Immediate Past President. AARBF means the world to Andrew. He has found a family here among the volunteers; a purpose amid the work, and connecting with kids and survivors of every age; and has found intensely difficult challenges and the highest heights of joy in service. Andrew is an “AARBF lifer.”
Employee to Board Member, her love for AARBF continues. Carolyn first joined the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation as the Northern California Burn Survivor and Prevention Regional Manager in 2008. For five years Carolyn worked as the AARBF liaison to Bay Area hospitals, safety coalitions, San Francisco Fire Department, and San Francisco Unified School District. She served the community through program management of the San Francisco FISE program, regional events, and hospital support and outreach. After leaving AARBF, Carolyn worked as a grant writer for St. Anthony Medical Clinic in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. She has also served on numerous boards and committees to secure new corporate sponsorships, and to provide finance and fundraising oversight. Carolyn currently works as the Corporate Partnership Officer at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Carolyn has returned to AARBF as a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Development Committee.
Her guardian angel brought us all one. Rana is a registered nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Burn Unit. She was first introduced to AARBF while visiting her grandmother at St. Francis Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco. Unfortunately, her grandmother did not survive her injuries, but Rana believes she became her guardian angel. Rana has attended many AARBF events and staffs the infirmary during Champ Camp. At Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Rana co-facilitates monthly support groups and is a co-coordinator for the Phoenix Society’s Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery program. Rana serves on AARBF’s Board of Directors and serves as Chair of the Survivor Services Committee.
Carrying on her cousin’s legacy. Alison is a namesake of Alisa Ann’s, but she did not even realize the power and reach of her own name until participating with all the dedicated people who have made the Foundation what it is today, whom she now considers extended family. After volunteering on and off, Alison was thrilled to be invited to join AARBF’s Board of Directors and serve as the Burn Prevention Committee Chair. Alison has spearheaded the development of burn prevention and life-saving lessons and tools for individuals with special needs, as well as targeting other underserved populations, including educating the unhoused community as to how to keep safe and warm. Alison is very proud of the dedicated work of every benefactor, staff member, and volunteer. She knows her cousin Alisa Ann would be very honored, as she is, to know of all the good deeds done in her name.
I am incredibly fortunate to have such a dedicated, passionate, and extraordinary group of individuals to serve alongside on the Board of Directors. Having had the privilege of serving as Board President of this most amazing organization for the past two years, I am struck by one thing in particular—our connection. You see, while all of us came to AARBF via different routes and purposes, we are all inextricably tied to one another through our commitment to improve the lives of Californians. Please consider making a meaningful gift, in any amount, to help us continue to significantly reduce the number of burn injuries through prevention education, and enhance the quality of life of those affected by burn injuries, in California. Online donations may be made quickly and easily at www.aarbf.org. Click the “Donate Now” button at the top right of the webpage for more details.
I hope you see the Foundation is in good hands. AARBF’s incredible Board of Directors Is passionate, driven and experienced and take their responsibility seriously, making sure every dollar donate has maximum impact. Thank you for your support.
Russ Charvonia, Board President 2020-2021
P.S. Earlier this year, AARBF launched its inaugural Founder’s Circle – a group of supporters committed to making a significant annual gift of at least $500. Linda and I are members. Will you join us in the Founder’s Circle? By joining today, you can be a part of the movement for a California that is safe and free from burn-injuries. Contributions can be made online.