Local non-profit empowers burn survivors through Champ Camp

Fresno, Calif. (KFSN) — The smells of SPF and chlorine met with laughter and cheers can only mean one thing in Wonder Valley — Champ Camp is back.

For the 37th year, the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation invited 150 burn survivors for a week-long getaway.

First-time Champ Camper Harlow can now add archery, ATVs and horseback riding to her list of favorite activities.

“Today, I caught two fish and yesterday, I caught two fish,” she said.

The nine-year-old says she was nervous because this was her first time away from home, but the friends she’s made have quickly turned into family.

Harlow says, “At school, people used to give me looks that kinda made me feel uncomfortable. They used to look at my burn spots and I didn’t really fit in because I just didn’t feel like I did. But when I got to Champ Camp, it made me feel like I was part of them and we were all family.”

Harlow was excited to judge the chili cook-off with her cabin mates, especially when she saw firefighters from her hometown of Visalia.

Competing for hardware and bragging rights, local fire departments, Champ Camp Staff and CRMC’s burn unit dished out their best for the judges.

Clovis Fire Department firefighter Tyler Krigbaum says many of the reviews were good.

“Some have been too honest,” he said. “I’m new to the game but not new to chili. Still do that in the firehouse.”

Many of these first responders fundraise to send kids to Champ Camp as well as volunteer their time.

Former CAL FIRE firefighter turned Executive Director of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, Daniel Chacon, says the experience is one that means just as much to volunteers and staff as it does to campers.

He says, “For the kids, it’s their way to see people in uniforms who are their heroes or may have saved them from their incident here with them now. Being able to do something like taste their chili and to vote on it, it’s a very special and unique opportunity.”

Champ Camp is 100% free for campers thanks to donations and community fundraising. You can donate to the Alisa Ann Ruch Foundation here.

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