Camp helps kids see beyond scars

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SAN DIEGO — Growing up can be difficult if you look different, but a local camp is giving burn survivors the chance to see beyond their scars.

Every year the San Diego Burn Institute invites more than 70 children to participate in the Camp Beyond the Scars.

For campers like Ana the free, week-long camp is more like a reunion. The kids share a bond, they all love to have fun and they’ve all suffered some type of serious burn injury.

“It’s your family,” Ana said.

Seventy-five percent of Ana’s body was burned by scalding cooking oil when she was 2-years-old.  The 16-year-old barely remembers the accident, but she’s had to live with the scars ever since.

Camp helps kids see beyond scarsAna is a confident teenager; however that wasn’t always the case.

“Everybody kept of looking at me weird like I was some different type of being because I have scars,” Ana said. “So, I came here and I shared my story.”

“I came here and saw that everybody had scars, I didn’t feel alone,” Ana said. “I felt that I belonged.”

More than 70 kids ages 5-17 from five counties in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas come to the free week-long camp.

The young burn survivors learn to surf, rock climb and skate. They also build their self-esteem and learn how to cope with their injuries.

Off-duty firefighters, UCSD Burn Center staff, nurses, teachers and burn survivors are counselors. They all have fun and learn valuable lessons along the way.

“We deal with the everyday person who is staring at them and wondering ‘what’s that scar from?’” Camp Beyond the Scars Assistant Director Kyle Kutzke said. “That’s also just a normal reaction from an average person.”

This is Ana’s 11th year at the camp and she’s known many of the kids since she was 5-years-old.

She says it’s one week away from home that they remember for life.

“You can be free here,” Ana said.  “That’s the best way to describe it, you can be free.”