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Chillin Out in Whistler

Pint-sized burn survivors dive into summer fun



For Michael Towes it was the quading. For Devon Grorory it was the hummering. But with faces smeared with mustard at a Rainbow Park barbecue hosted by Whistler’s Rotary Club for young burn survivors, it seemed to be the hamburgers.

Chowing down was necessary for the eight year olds after an adventure-packed Tuesday in Whistler. Eighty kids from B.C. and Saskatchewan are taking part in a week-long summer vacation at BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Camp near Squamish July 23-28.

Alpine sliding, mini-golf, ATV-ing, ziplining and riding the gondola were just some of the activities in which burn survivors from age eight to 13 took part.

His first time at summer camp, Mission resident Michael Towes said he hasn’t had time to get homesick, not with sharing a cabin with 13 others and spending days whitewater rafting, swimming and taking part in countless water fights.

Ten-year-old Dellan Watson said a highlight for him is the cabin’s mascot.

"He’s an orange and black cat, like a tiger, and he comes to our cabin every night," said Watson, whose home is Trail. Watson also demonstrated with Surrey’s Devon Grorogy, the secret handshake the cabin mates have learned.

Funded by monies raised by B.C. professional firefighters, burn survivor children from around the province and a handful from Saskatchewan, are kept busy by 58 volunteer counsellors and staff.

Whitney Burnaud, 19, had third-degree burns to 60 per cent of her body as a youngster and first came to camp at 13. The Nanaimo resident and aesthetics student is volunteering as a camp counsellor and said the week is a chance for kids to be themselves.

"At camp it makes you see that you’re not the only one, that there are other people out there like you and they can help you," she said. "So you’re not always asking ‘why me, what did I do, how come?’"

Burnaud said for some the week is the only time of year they will wear shorts. "I know first-hand what it’s like to have scars and some don’t like to show their scars."

Coquitlam firefighter Tony Burke is the camp’s executive director. He said the camp benefits more than just the kids.

"As firefighters we don’t see or hear about the end of the story, so for us it helps us to be able to put some closure into our lives."

Whistler-Blackcomb hosted the day trip.

"We wanted to crank their fun meters as high as we could," said Arthur DeJong, "hoping they discover some newfound passions in play on our mountains."

Whistler’s Cows donated ice cream for the barbecue, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory provided treats, Linda Marshall painted faces, and Rotary Club members cooked up the burgers. Mayor Ken Melamed and local councillors were on hand to dish up food.

Whistler fire and rescue members work throughout the year raising funds, including a Christmas drive and hockey tournament, for the annual summer camp.