Archived Story

Great Lakes Burn Camp fundraiser to expand this year

Published 10:19pm Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Conor Campbell (left) watches in anticipation as he tests his robot at the Lake Michigan College Lego Robotics Camp in Niles. Isabella Wah, Michael Craw and Shawn Ellis (from left) wait their turn to test their robots. (Daily Star Photo/AARON MUELLER)
Conor Campbell (left) watches in anticipation as he tests his robot at the Lake Michigan College Lego Robotics Camp in Niles. Isabella Wah, Michael Craw and Shawn Ellis (from left) wait their turn to test their robots. (Daily Star Photo/AARON MUELLER)

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

For firefighters like Lt. Doug Myers of the Niles Township Fire Department, fighting the flames may not be as tough as witnessing the damage that can come to victims of fire – especially when those victims are children.

“We’ll see the worst day of their lives,” Myers said. “And then we don’t see them again.”
So for firefighters like Myers, the annual Niles Burn Run is a way to give back to those families by giving support to the Great Lakes Burn Camp – a camp that gives kids and firefighters the chance to know even the youngest victims can find a way to heal.

“For us, it’s something that we can see after the fact that’s better news of what actually happened,” Myers said.

The Niles Burn Run will take place this weekend and unlike in previous years, will be a much larger, two-day event.

Arrangements have been made to shut down Main Street, and bikers, vendors and musicians will pour in to raise money for the camp.

The camp is free to the kids.

“Some of the kids – not all of them, but some of them – are burned up because of neglect,” Myers said.

That’s one of the reasons the camp is free to victims – if it is a neglect issue, Myers said, it’s likely those families wouldn’t pay to send their kids to the camp.

In the case that it’s not a neglect issue, those families “have so many medical bills” they simply wouldn’t be able to afford it, Myers said.

“The hospital bills are ungodly,” camp director Mike Longnecker said.

The Great Lakes Burn Camp is stocked with supplies including shoes, clothes, swimsuits and even coats, hats and gloves for its four-day winter camp. Longnecker said the camp runs its own arts and crafts and a kitchen that makes homemade meals.

“We’re just a small non-profit,” he said. “We work out of our homes and everyone volunteers their time.”

Staffers include former campers, social workers, nurses, firefighter paramedics and even Coast Guard rescue divers.

The camp is free to the kids, Longnecker said, primarily “because of fundraisers like what Doug is doing. (The Burn Run) has become one of the biggest events we have.”

For children, surviving a fire and going through the experience of being in a burn unit can be “traumatizing,” Longnecker said.

The purpose of the camp is to show kids they’re not alone and give them a place where they don’t have to feel ashamed or self-conscious of how they look.

For some, the after-effects of severe burns can even lead to deeper tissue damage, “where it starts affecting organs,” Longnecker said.

“They actually get to find out there are other kids that have been though the same thing they have,” Longnecker said.

“We have seen just the kids being around other kids changes their home life,” he added. “It’s really opened them up. It’s great for their social well being.”

The camp sees an average of 85 kids each summer and can handle up to 120. In the winter, they’re limited to 65 kids.

Myers said hospitals are often the organization to suggest or inform parents of child burn victims about the camp.

“You don’t have to be a motorcycle rider” to make a difference and participate in the burn run, Myers said.

With so many vendors coming into town for the event including McDaniels Harley Davidson, Myers said those vendors have pledged a portion of the money made during the two-day event to the camp as well.

Activities will start Saturday at 10 a.m. and last until 10 p.m. The run kicks off Sunday at 9 a.m. with activities lasting into the evening, followed by live music as part of the Niles Summer Concert Series and Movies in the Park.

For more information, visit www.great lakesburncamp.com.

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