The first week in June, 50 children attended Parkland Health & Hospital System’s (in Dallas) annual weeklong burn camp. Camp I-Thonka-Chi, which is Choctaw for “a place that makes one strong or fearless, not afraid to face life,” has hosted hundreds of children and teens since 1992 and provided a place for them to interact with peers who have experienced similar circumstances, according to a news release. The camp staff included two Parkland Health nurses, who attended the camp full time.
Angela Jackson, RN, a bedside nurse in Parkland’s Burn Acute Care Unit for the past 11 years, became involved with the camp a few years ago, following the death of an attending physician in the burn unit, who was very involved with the camp. “I was motivated to get involved myself,” she said. “It was a way of honoring him. I think for the participants, it’s being able to get away and just be kids. It’s very therapeutic for them.”
Internationally recognized, the Parkland Regional Burn Center serves a geographic area of more than 100,000 square miles, including north and east Texas and southern Oklahoma. Parkland admits more than 650 patients of all ages with serious burn injuries annually and treats more than 1,200 outpatients, according to the release.
The burn camp, which is for children ages 6 to 18, is not supported by a national organization. Children can attend for free because of generous donations of Parkland employees and area donors. Camp John Marc, which hosts the annual event at its facility in Meridian, Texas, also helps with fundraising so more children can attend.
Patrick Rudisill, 16, a burn survivor, has been attending camp for several years. “I like seeing the kids who are here for the first time,” he said in the release. “They’re coming to a place to have fun with friends who have been through similar things.”
During the weeklong event campers build friendships, improve social skills and simply have fun without being self-conscious of their scars or injuries. “At breakfast, around the arts and crafts table, they sit and are talking and sharing in a way they could only do there with one another,” Jackson said. “It’s an awesome feeling to see these kids play and interact with one another. They are able to do stuff that every other kid gets to do, like fishing, horseback riding, arts and crafts, and so on. It’s amazing to see how well they cope with their scars. I have taken part for the past three years, using my own vacation time, and I will definitely do it again.”
For more information on Camp I-Thonka-Chi or to make a donation, visit ParklandBurnCamp.org.