Nhi Vo: Ellwood & Louise Reed Bridge to Life Scholarship Recipient

January 3, 2013

Nhi Vo

In June of 2012, I went home for a week to relax before I headed back to Davis for summer school. The first thing I saw on my dresser was a vanilla envelope addressed to me which had arrived for me some time in May. Inside the package was a letter from the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, encouraging me to apply for the Ellwood & Louise Reed Bridge to Life Scholarship. I was touched that the foundation was still reaching out to me even though I had not been as involved in the events hosted by it as I used to be.

Happiness and nostalgia surrounded me as I remembered my time at Champ Camp, the Young Adult Summit, and the Fishing Trip. Champ Camp was the most memorable place for me because it was where I learned what it meant to be happy. Before attending the camp, I felt really broken inside. I had a hard time adjusting to the new body full of disfigurements. After realizing that I would never be normal like my peers, I just wanted to be invisible so people did not have to stare at my scars. When I attended Champ Camp, I saw that many of the campers were not wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to hide their scars like I did. Instead, they accepted their injuries and not let the scars define who they were. Motivated, I decided to put away my cloak of invisibility and started to wear to clothing that signify that I was no longer ashamed of my burns. The activities at camp were also very therapeutic to my healing process. In addition, the camp counselors were also crucial to my metamorphosis. With their love, support, and hugs I was able to grow stronger and to believe in myself.

I am very grateful to know that there are kind people like Mr. Reed, Mrs. Reed, and the Reed family who are passionate about helping people. I would like to acknowledge and thank them for their contribution to the Ellwood and Louise Reed Bridge-to-Life Scholarship to help burn survivors pursue higher education. I agree with their belief that “education can lift anyone to new heights of awareness of success” for I am traveling down that road right now as I attend college. Receiving the scholarship has been such a huge blessing to my life. Instead of worrying about taking out loans and getting a job, I can just focus on being a student. Besides lightening the load off my financial burden, the scholarship allows me to have more time to do more. I am able to take more challenging courses which will bring me closer to my goal of attending nursing school. Also, I am able to participate in a mission team to plan events to benefit the local communities at large.

Nhi VoOverall, I would to express my gratitude to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation for everything it has done for me and staying in touch with me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to apply for the scholarship. I cannot wait until the day that I get to come back to Champ Camp as a counselor. But for now, I will continue to work hard in school because I know that there are amazing people who want me to achieve my best.


A Little Girl’s Thoughtful Donation

October 18, 2012

Hi, my name is Jolene Cappelluti. I am a Firefighter at Templeton Fire Department. On October 11th, after the Central Coast Fire Chiefs Burn Relay, we returned to our station to clean out our engine before we headed down to San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market for the Finale. A little girl named Hunter Hopkins came in to our Fire Department with her great-grandmother, Nancy Chapin. Nancy had explained that Hunter wanted to bring some money down to donate and that she thought that they had missed it. Hunter showed me a piggy bank and said that she wanted to give all the money in her piggy bank to the kids who had been burned. When her grandma opened it, I noticed it was filled to the top. Hunter smiled with joy as she poured it into the boot I was holding and had to be helped when pulling out the dollar bills that were stuck inside. I asked her if this was money that she had earned and had been saving. Hunter said, “Yes.” I thanked her and gave her a hug. I promised that I would make sure that the money would be given to AARBF at the Farmer’s Market.

“Hunter has a big heart for others and this is what she wanted to do. Hunter will give money to the homeless and once a month she goes with the church and I to help feed the homeless,” said Nancy, Hunter’s grandmother.

As part of the Burn Relay the local departments visit our local schools for fire prevention week; they participate in “Fill the Boot” but it’s not brought up as part of our fire safety message in the classrooms. I think Hunter understood where the money goes after we stopped at her school on the Burn Relay. I think Hunter is a rare and thoughtful first grader. So rare in fact that when I had asked Nancy, her grandmother, if it would be okay to bring Hunter by our Fire Department along with her piggy bank; Hunter gave us the money that she had already started saving since the burn relay. She is truly an amazing little girl. Nancy told me that Hunter has a grandmother on her father’s side who is a retired firefighter from Camp Roberts. I am so happy that I got to meet such a thoughtful and caring little girl.

Thank you,

Jolene Cappelluti

Christina Min: Ellwood & Louise Reed Bridge to Life Scholarship Recipient

September 15, 2012


I have been a part of AARBF for the past 12 years, Champ Camp for the past 10. Not only does that make me feel like I’m getting old but it also makes me feel extremely lucky.

I never thought that Champ Camp had an impact on me when I was younger, it was just a summer camp to me where we shot arrows and swam in pools. It’s by looking back that I can see that was the point, I learned to be a carefree child. Without even realizing, I stopped caring what others thought of me and it wasn’t just my scars, it was all my self-conscious parts, too. I have to credit AARBF for this, they allowed me to become myself for all hours of the day, 365 days a year. Plus, without seeing my family at Champ Camp, my school year would have been a bust. Camp is what got me through every dreaded school year and chemistry test because I kept thinking, “If I can get through this, it’ll bring me closer to camp.”

Now that I am 19, that doesn’t mean my time with AARBF has stopped. I still plan on attending events for an indefinite amount of time and supporting my camp family. And I know AARBF is still supporting me, especially with the Ellwood & Louise Reed Bridge to Life Scholarship. This scholarship helps me breath easier so I can focus more on my studies and goals at UCSB, rather than working more hours at my two jobs. Right now, I am also trying to save up for my study abroad year at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, so the Bridge to Life Scholarship is also helping me go half way across the world! From studying abroad in college and joining the Peace Corps, I hope to figure out what I want to do with my life, which right now is possibly law or working for a non-profit organization. Wherever my future ends up though, I doubt that I will miss an AARBF event.

-Christina Min

Champ Camp Champions: Bakersfield Firefighters Burn Foundation

August 8, 2012

Champ Camp welcomed a new champion at this year’s VIP Day on June 13th: Bakersfield Firefighters Burn Foundation (BFBF). Trever Martinusen, a Bakersfield firefighter, has been a driving force behind the Bakersfield Firefighters Burn Foundation’s fundraising efforts to support the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and Champ Camp. In 2009, BFBF donated $6,000 to send eight burn injured children from Kern County to Champ Camp. In only three years their annual donation has more than doubled to a presentation of $15,000 this summer and new relationships built throughout the community supporting camp.

Trever gets his support from fellow BFBF members like Chris Bowles and Steven Dietz, but the real “hook-up” comes from his best connection – his wife, Shari Martinusen. Shari works at San Joaquin Community Hospital Grossman Burn Center, alongside Darci Combs, forming relationships with many of the Kern County campers who come through the burn center.

BFBF and the Burn Center partnered up with Bakersfield Outback Steakhouse manager, Lori Hart, and employee, Michelle Kroeker, to host Send a Kid to Camp. The luncheon is an easy way to support camp if you’re in the area next May – Outback’s famous Bloomin’ Onions and firefighter servers! Almost as good as the Bachelor Auction!

Trever isn’t the only one with a hook-up! Outback Lori’s husband, Mike Hart, is a veteran news anchor at KERO ABC 23 in Bakersfield who was more than excited to visit Champ Camp for a feature story. His enthusiasm carried over to the news channel’s media company and the Scripps Howard Foundation, for a $1,000 donation to camp!

Mike Hart’s feature on Champ Camp, KERO ABC 23 Bakersfield

Local champions like Trever make Champ Camp possible for burn survivor children to attend Champ Camp at no cost to them or their families. With the Bakersfield Firefighters Burn Foundation, Trever pulled together his resources and shared his love and passion for Champ Camp with his family, friends, colleagues and local businesses. If you’re interested in becoming a champion in your community, whether your goal is to send one camper or 50 to camp, contact Chanda Guerin, AARBF development manager, at (415) 495-7223 or cguerin@aarbf.org, for information and tips on getting started.

Thank you, Trever and to your whole team for making camp possible for 20 Kern County campers in 2012!

Chloe’s Blog

February 2, 2012

Hello, my name is Chloe.

When I was 15 months old in Ogunquit, Maine, I was in the kitchen – alone.  I was curious about the table, so I hoisted myself onto a chair and felt around.  I had no idea that there was steaming hot tea on the table; it fell on me.  I had no skin from my lips to my belly button and I even inhaled some tea, burning my lungs.

Now I am 9 years old, healthy, and living in the Bay Area. I love the AARBF because of how many things they did for me, especially Champ Camp, the weekend trips, and the Firefighter Burn Relay fundraisers.  Before Champ Camp, I didn’t know any other burn survivors and I didn’t feel like I fit in.  Now that I have been at Champ Camp, I felt like I totally fit in and Champ Camp is super fun.  Everyone is really nice and every year we get to go to Wild Waters Adventure Park.  I’ve made lots of friends at Champ Camp and some don’t even speak English!

I love AARBF so much that I have done many fundraisers for it.  Last year I sold friendship bracelets and made $8.  I even drew signs for advertising.  This year I did more planning and I sold pastries, friendship bracelets, and Japanese erasers.  I earned $42.50 for the AARBF.   I have also helped the AARBF and fire stations raise money.   I made signs for my local fire station’s pancake breakfast for the AARBF and have represented Champ Camp at three Firefighter Burn Relays.

The AARBF has helped me so much.  The AARBF ROCKS!

If you are interested in learning more about AARBF’s services or fundraisers, please visit our website at www.aarbf.org.

Holiday Cooking: Be Safe, Be Smart!

November 22, 2011

Cooking during the holidays is a special time of year for many families. This is why it is best to take precautions while cooking. According to US Fire Administration http://www.usfa.fema.gov/), the kitchen can be one of the most hazardous rooms in the house if you don’t practice safe cooking behavior. Cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. Cooking equipment is also the leading cause of unreported fires and associated injuries. Here are some safety cooking tips AARBF recommends:


  • The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • Stay alert! To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won’t be if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.


  • Keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains – away from your stovetop.
  • Keep the stovetop, burners, and oven clean.
  • Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner.

For more cooking safety information, go to: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/cooking.shtm

AARBF wishes you and your family a fun, festive and safe holiday season!

One Survivor’s Road to Recovery

November 2, 2011

It’s been almost two and a half years since I burned myself. When asked about my burn scars, I’ve found two main things I can do for myself: first, tell my story with honesty and kindness. I was surprised how understanding and compassionate even strangers are. The other is to create a social network of burn survivors.  Below is a list of resources that I discovered helped my recovery:

    • The Getaway 2010 
      A weekend camp outing by Alisa Ann Ruch Burn. This was the first time I took off my compression garments in front of a group of strangers. The seminars were extremely informative and play time was the most fun I’d had since my burn in 2009. It was the first time that I zip-lined—I discovered that I could transfer the courage to try a new personal best to my new life with scars.
    • AARBF monthly group support meetings
      The local representative visited me as I was being discharged from the burn unit. At that time, I wasn’t open to the possibilities that AARBF could have possibly offered me—I just wanted OUT of the unit and to move on with my life. However, without this resource, I’d not known about World Burn Congress (WBC).
    • Phoenix Society’s WBC 2010
      The Phoenix Society (see www.phoenix-society.org) provides a number of resources. When I was at the World Burn Congress, I attended the BEST seminar—it was the key for me to become comfortable in my new skin. I even swam in the heated outdoor pool without a neck-to-ankle exposure suit for the first time! Evidently I asked some great questions because I was later interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR). I was also asked to speak at breakout session of about 40 audience members—that was the first time I told the truth of “what happened?” to a group of strangers. That was most cathartic. I also met a sweetheart, who moved from New York to California where I live. We celebrated one year of knowing each other on 10/22/11.
    • Another tip I garnered from the BEST seminar helps others see me as a human being…just kindly smile. When I notice the few people throughout my day furtively glancing at my scars, I kindly ask, “They’re burn scars. Would you like to know what happened?” You can see how relieved people are. I also learned that people take cues from me. If I feel and act like I’m more than my burn scars, then others do, too.
    • Phoenix Society’s Online Chat
      The caring moderators and burn survivors provide their experiences with any stage in recovery.
    • Friends
      Associate with people who understand burn issues. You can learn details from other burn survivors’ doctors and individual daily experience nuances. You can help each other such as by giving daily massages. I’m delighted to be able to share with others that “I remember feeling that way when I was only a year post-burn, too.”
    • Family
      My Dad and his wife spearheaded prayer circles for my recovery when I was in the hospital. With all my Mom has done for me, it is almost as if she gave me life for the second time. I definitely would not have survived the hospital or 10 month recovery ordeal without them.
    • Telling the truth about what happened
      When I was asked, “What happened to you?” I would ask, “Do you want the truth or a cheeky answer?” All but one person has ever said, “The truth.” It braces them for the severity of my situation and they see me as a human being.  Moreover, I discovered it is cathartic to tell the truth. I have found people to be understanding and compassionate.
    • Finding your own path                                                                                                                                                                                                   Although I’m a fashonista, I still daily feel anxious about what to wear—especially with a new group of strangers who might see my scars. I ponder whether to wear something to cover them or just leave my arms of scars exposed? One person even thought I had textured henna—I was thrilled! I even created outfits around my compression garments, which were bold black instead of attempting to match my skin tone color.

These suggestions have helped me so far to evolve with my burn recovery.  I hope you find them helpful. I’d love to hear of other things you’ve done. And I am so grateful for everyone’s gracious assistance during my recovery!

About the Author

Author & Burn Survivor Wendy Albrecht

For more information about Wendy’s burn survivor story, please see Phoenix Society and search for GalEnjoyingLife.  For more information about Wendy in general, please see www.wendyalbrecht.com.