Yaramitt Heredia: Burn Survivor, Young Adult Council
“If you’re happy, really enjoy that happiness, that moment. Be grateful for every little thing.”
– Yaramitt Heredia, Burn Survivor, AARBF Young Adult Council
It’s the end of a HUGE year for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and we couldn’t have done it without you! As we reflect on this season of gratitude and giving, we ask that your giving spirit continue to help our important work.
Yara Heredia is who we all wish we were at the age of 21. Anyone would crave her level of confidence, ease and wry sense of humor, frequently dissolving into mischievous laughter. It was not always like this for Yara. “As a kid before my accident I was very shy, the sort of kid that only spoke when spoken to, with my head down. After my accident, I slowly realized it’s OK. It’s OK to stand up for myself, to ask questions, to say I’m upset, disappointed or just to express myself overall. The first time I started to grow into that was at Camp.” An introspective 14-year-old “senior” when she was ready but uncertain about joining Champ Camp. At Camp, she quickly found inspiration in others – some with similar injuries, some with widely different burn stories. Confidence quickly filled the empty spaces in Yara’s healing journey.
Stop any camper on the trail to archery, horseback riding, swimming, or any of a dozen other activities at Champ Camp and you will hear a similar story—the community of burn survivors they discover at camp becomes the tightest family imaginable. For most, Camp is their first experience meeting other survivors. “One of my first camp counselors was a burn survivor. She really inspired me. Her level of energy matched my own inner craziness and I began to let it out. I threw a lot of glitter at people that year!”
“Before my accident I had never met a burn survivor. We never knew this community existed. We were wholly unprepared for this,” Yara says. Then a world of support opened up, offering Yara and her family support, guidance, answers, and connection.
After navigating life hiding her scars, being with other survivors changed Yara’s attitude. “I can’t tell you what it was, but when I got home from Camp, the first thing I told my mom was that we needed to go to the mall to buy shorts. For the first time, I didn’t want to hide. I wanted to show my scars. I wanted to be fourteen and enjoy going to the beach and pools.” After her first Champ Camp, she has attended “just about every Alisa Ann Ruch Burn event.”
Your support keeps this community thriving and able to receive survivors of serious burn injuries at a time when they need us the most.
It was a mid-December day in 2010, ordinary, calm, a winter chill in the air. Yara and her family, like so many days before, gathered around the backyard firepit for togetherness and glowing warm relaxation. While other family members were focused elsewhere, nine-year-old Yara decided to be helpful and stoke the dying flame by pouring just a bit of gasoline in the pit. It just seemed annoying that the gas can was so heavy and splashed onto her pants as she dropped it. Quickly though, she began to panic as her clothes caught fire.
Yara didn’t yet know she was burned over 48% of her body when she ran to find her mother. Her mother doused the flames with a garden hose. A frantic car ride led to the hospital, then to a burn center and to multiple surgeries that still continue today.
The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation was there for Yara, as it is for thousands of other burn survivors across California, from the moment recovery begins. We are with Yara and other survivors for their full healing journey. We make this commitment to each survivor. Your support, at any level, means we will never let a burn survivor down.
Now a college biology major, Yara has been impacted so strongly by her participation in the burn community and programs she found through AARBF that she now intends to give back. She hopes to become a Camp counselor in the future and is a very active participant in the Young Adult Council. The Council provides our board of directors and staff with the voice and vision of young survivors.
With wisdom beyond her years, Yara reflects, “When I was recently burned, I wish I’d known—you don’t wake up one day and just feel OK about your burns. There are ups and downs but also U-turns where you think you’re past a certain feeling and then it’s ‘Oh no. I have to go back.’ You might realize ‘Maybe I’m OK now,’ but the next day you’re not. And that’s perfectly fine.”
It was another survivor who first hugged Yara and said, “Let it all out. You’re human. It’s fine.”
While she’s quick to make a joke, Yara’s resilience has already inspired many who long for her confidence and ease.
We want generous supporters like you to feel connected to survivors like Yara, so you truly understand the impact of your support. Your gift of any amount will help us to be there for our survivor community. It will enable us to continue our mission to significantly reduce the number of burn injuries through prevention education. It will help to enhance the quality of life of those affected by burn injuries.
Together, we will create a safe California free from burn injuries and a community of empowered burn survivors.