The 2018 Kayak-a-thon course begins in Old Lyme at Black Hall Outfitters, continues up the Connecticut River and ends at the Chrisholm Marina in Chester. About 13 miles! We have two support boats captained by my dad, Andy Pandiani and our neighbor, Dave Scranton. We will be following the tide and envision the wind at our backs!
For the forth year in a row I will be participating in the Kayak-a-thon, raising money to support the Arthur C. Luf Children's Burn Camp. This year I will be joined by Teresa Mariconda, Lou Chupak, and Lynn Pandiani! For the past three years I have volunteered as a counselor at Burn Camp with Group 2, which is made up of 8 children ages 10-11. This year I am paddleing to reach my goal of covering the cost of camp for my 8 campers! Fundraisers such as this allow every camper to attend free of charge and makes Burn Camp accessible to all children who have suffered life altering burn injuries.
As a child I spent 11 summers attending the Burn Camp and now I will have another 4 summers under my belt as a counselor. As a kid, Burn Camp was the only place that I was free from uncomfortable questions, staring strangers, and crushing insecurities. It is a safe environment necessary for many young burn survivors recovery and has without a doubt helped me become the strong, confident, woman I am today.
I believe that a long time counselor and mentor of mine, Paula Carlson, said it best in her article, "Countdown to Burn Camp" featured on the Atlantic Regional Firefighters Burn Foundation website: http://www.arfbf.org/recent-news1/
" To put the camp in perspective, let me give you some examples of what you may see during the week at camp. The camp has many activities provided throughout the week such as arts and crafts, archery, ropes, waterfront, theatre, and dancing. It is in these activity areas where the kids are truly challenged and where we the counselors see some of the most inspiring moments at camp. Overcoming not just your injuries, but also adapting with lessened mobility or even loss of limbs is what drives our support for each other. Seeing a camper successfully finish a section of the ropes course, hit a bullseye at the archery, or learn how to float in the lake, supports one of the camp objectives to “provide an environment that allows children to be challenged and accepted in order to develop a healthy self-esteem and move beyond their scars and live fully developed lives.”
To an outsider, wearing a swimsuit, a short sleeved shirt, or not wearing a hat may seem trivial. To us, this is monumental. Time and again, I have heard our campers say that when they see other kids at camp not covering their burns, it helps them face the many self-esteem issue they may face outside of camp. In camp, the kids have peers who understand the challenges of being burnt in social settings. At camp, we foster an atmosphere where they feel safe and don’t have to worry about hiding their injuries.
And finally, when the campers see and interact with counselors who used to be our campers or are themselves adult burn survivors, it demonstrates that growing up and achieving all of your dreams is possible even with visible burn injuries. In the day and age of looks, one can only imagine the fear a child with burn injuries must have about their own future. The ability to talk to someone who understands is priceless. It is beyond rewarding to see a camper grow up and later return as a counselor to give back the exact experience they were given.
We are all volunteers at the camp. Our rewards come in the form of hugs and in the achievements of our campers. When they remember your name from the previous year, want you to sit by them at lunch, or wait all day to tell you a joke, that is our reward every day of camp. The camp is based on smiles, laughter, camp songs, and overcoming things once thought impossible."
There are many counselors like Paula who continue to inspire me. Without their dedication and without your generous support Burn Camp would not be possible. Thank you!