“The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation kept me from going over the cliff. I was raised in a bad environment but AARBF exposed me to love and kindness. Now I give and show love the way that I received it.” – Tremone Fucles, Burn Survivor
Standing tall at 6’5” with an impressive educational and professional resume, looking at 26-year-old Tremone Fucles you would never think that he had any insecurities or fears that could hold him back in life. But a burn injury at age 11 changed Tremone’s life forever- unknowingly setting him on a trajectory of new experiences, educational focuses and a career path he never could have imagined.
It was a typical Saturday morning in the Fucles household in March 2005. Tremone had a Little League baseball game that day, so he needed to be sure to get his weekend chores done beforehand. Tremone was in charge of cleaning the floors, so he put a pot of water on the stove to boil and then tried to remove it and pour it into the mop bucket. Balancing on the edge of the kitchen counter, the pot of hot water fell and spilled down right side of Tremone’s body, covering his lower stomach and right leg. Tremone rushed to the bathroom to put cool water on it, crying in pain for his mom and dad who were still in bed that early morning.
Tremone’s mother ran to the bathroom, swooped him into her arms and drove him to the nearest hospital where he remained for one week. Tremone had suffered burns over 21% of his body and was transferred to Shriners Hospitals for Children- Northern California in Sacramento, where he was treated for an additional week.
At Shriners Hospitals for Children- Northern California, Tremone learned about the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation’s Champ Camp, one of the world’s largest and longest running summer camps for burn injured children, from one of his nurses. At the time, he could not walk and was in a lot of pain so he was not interested in attending camp, but his mother was very interested.
Tremone was released from the hospital and returned home just in time for Spring Break. When he returned to school with crutches, his friends asked what happened and Tremone provided limited details of his injury. His classmates looked online for photos of burns and taunted him with the images. In addition to the ridicule from his classmates, Tremone was devastated that he would not be able to return to play his beloved sports. One month after the accident, and off crutches, Tremone tried to resume playing baseball. As he sat on the bench at baseball practice, fluids from the bandages on his leg soaked through his white baseball pants. Looking terrified, his coach told him he would not be able to play. “My life is done with,” eleven-year-old, Tremone sulked.
That summer, despite his initial reservations about going, Tremone attended his very first Champ Camp. As one of the few Black families in his neighborhood and feeling like an outcast at school after his burn injury, Tremone finally found his home at Champ Camp. “It was like Disneyland; lots of smiling, laughing,” recalls Tremone. “There’s other people here like me.”
After Champ Camp, Tremone returned home in a much more positive spirit. Before he went to camp he wore long pants that covered his burn scars, after camp he was able to wear shorts again for sports. He attended more AARBF events including the Outdoor Trip, Ski Trip, Monterey Bay Aquarium Trip, and holiday parties. He was also able to return to sports, flag football, basketball, football, lacrosse and track! When he was old enough, he attended Young Adult Summit and became a Counselor in Training at Champ Camp. “I wanted to be around people who experienced the same thing I had,” said Tremone. “No matter what happened at school, at camp I was normal, able to have fun and not be judged.”
In 2012, Tremone graduated high school with the goal of playing football in college, but sprained fingers, a broken shoulder and a family illness, changed his mind. Tremone attended San Francisco State University and lived at home to help care for his grandmother. Inspired by the work of Champ Camp volunteer Dr. Ruth Rimmer, who facilitated annual surveys at Champ Camp for campers, Tremone majored in criminal justice and psychology. “Maybe someday I can be a therapist or researcher for burn survivors and survivors of trauma,” Tremone pondered.
When he graduated in Spring 2017 with his Bachelor’s degree, he continued his education, earning a Master’s in Public Health at University of California, Berkeley with a concentration in epidemiology and bio statistics. He was awarded an AARBF “Woody and Louise ‘Bridge to Life’ Scholarship” for two years and was awarded an “Aiming Higher” Scholarship for graduate school.
In 2020, Tremone joined AARBF’s Council of Advisors, as one of its youngest members.
“I want to use my experience as a camper, CIT, counselor and burn survivor to help do more for the foundation. I want to keep camp as it was for me as a camper. I also want to thank those who did it for me. AARBF helped me know who I was. AARBF is my home away from home!”
Tremone Fucles’ journey is one example of how AARBF’s programs provided a loving and supportive environment to help a burn survivor thrive and build a brighter future.