My name is Harry Franklin (a.k.a. Butterbean), and my good friend Buster asked if I would like to write a little something about my involvement in the Burn Foundation. At first, I was a bit skeptical—I’m a little nervous about blogging in public! But the truth is, I would do anything for Buster, and the Burn Foundation.
We are currently recruiting for this year’s CHAMP CAMP, so in the spirit of expressing why we come together to do what we do, I would like to tell the story of how I came to camp, and how it has infinitely changed my life for the better. In doing so, I hope to shift the honor I feel at serving the foundation to the man who brought me in, and serves as my constant inspiration.
I’ve been a Firefighter/Paramedic for the Santa Clara County Fire District for many years, and I’ve had the pleasure to work with many outstanding individuals. Many of them have volunteered for the Burn Foundation over the years; Colonel Sanders, Woodchuck, Cougar, Bogie, Indi, Jack Rabbit, Foxx, Big Foot, to name but a few. As a firefighter, as part of the firefighter’s Local 1165, I was accustom to working with the Foundation in public education and fundraising, but I always looked to the aforementioned firefighters with a certain awe. I vaguely knew they gave up a huge chunk of their time to work with burn injured kids during the summer, and I always had mad respect for them.
At the time, I couldn’t imagine how they were pulling it off. It wasn’t just the time away from work and family—ten days in the middle of June, prime vacation-pick territory!—the idea of working with injured kids scared me. I have kids of my own. I’ve worked with injured kids in the emergency setting, and it was often a stressful and heart-wrenching experience. I feared that I would be too empathetic, too overwhelmed by the tragedy that goes hand-in-hand with serious injury, to do what they did.
Well, I was wrong—about a lot of things.
I had the good fortune to work a few tours of duty with my friend and fellow firefighter, Mark McCormack. Mark had recently been promoted to Captain, and had been given the unenviable job of supervising me for a short period. We were having fun, running calls and cracking jokes, grilling almost every meal, and Mark began telling me stories from Champ Camp. After a while, it was clear he wanted to recruit me as a counselor. He even printed an application and showed me pictures of a bunch of people, kids and adults alike, seemingly having the time of their lives.
I told Mark I would think about it. He assured me, I would love it. In truth, I didn’t know if I could pull it off. I wasn’t sure my ol’ lady would be cool with it. I didn’t think I could get the time off work. I wanted to spend those golden summer weeks with my friends and family, my kids—there were trips, graduations, birthdays. I didn’t think I had anything leftover for things like charity or noble causes—after all, I spent my life in service to my community already, I went to the fundraisers, I supported all the causes. Looking back, I’m not sure if the old me would have turned in that application.
As it happens, my friend, Captain Mark McCormack, was killed in the line of duty while fighting a structure fire, not even three days later. He was struck by live electrical lines, and died instantly. It was not Mac’s first brush with fire. Mac was a burn survivor himself. He burnt his hand as a child and suffered a lifetime of taunts and jabs as a result of his scars.
I now know what Champ Camp meant to Mac. Tears blurred the ink on my application, but I sent it in—and my life has never been the same. I have discovered new things about myself and rekindled my faith in humanity. I have met some of the finest people on earth, and I have been given the opportunity to transform tragedy into wisdom. The kids themselves have shown me hope and joy. I never see their scars, only their smiles and the brightness of their spirits. My family has grown knowing sacrifice to a noble cause, and my daughters itch for the day when they can be counselors themselves.
I thank Mac, and dedicate my service in his name.