Burn Survivors Gather for the First Time Since Pandemic Began

Thirty-one kids and their counselors rely on each other for healing and help

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

They waited almost two years to see each other and it took only a few seconds for dozens of children to start playing together as if they were never separated.

“It’s just nice to regroup with all my friends,” said Kyle Sterling while sitting in Admiral Baker Park in Grantville.

The 14-year-old was happy to be with other children who also suffered life-threatening burns.

“Some people just don’t understand what they don’t know,” said the soon-to-be Grossmont High School sophomore.

“All the kids that come to Camp Beyond the Scars are burn survivors,” said the Burn Institute camp counselor Blake Burndred.

The annual camp was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. All the young survivors were forced to rely on each other and their Burn Institute counselors via online meetings.

“It’s like a sigh of relief now that we’re able to see each other in person,” said Burndred.

The 26-year-old said the children don’t have to focus on how they were injured at the annual camp. They can focus on how they’re doing now without having to rehash their stories.

“It’s like reliving that event every time you explain it and, as you can imagine, it’s not always a good experience,” Burndred said.

Sterling burned his back and legs in an ATV accident when he was only six.

“Right now, you wouldn’t even know I have a burn. Some people, it’s harder to hide,” he said.

Sterling admitted the stay-at-home order wasn’t completely awful. He said he got a break from explaining his injuries to others.

“It’s just some people don’t know how to handle the abnormally of someone looking very different," Sterling said.

Burndred understood where Sterling was coming from. Burndred burned his left hand and arm in a welding accident three years ago.

“As a fellow burn survivor myself, explaining your scars and what led up to them, your accident can be kind of tiring,” he sighed.

That’s why the teen and counselor were happy to be back alongside so many others with similar stories.

“Just like any other friend, you start to miss them. Two years is a long time not to see anyone,” said Burndred.

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