In two weeks, 14 children from all over Delaware, as well as some from Pennsylvania and Maryland, will be visiting Camp Barnes for the Fourth Annual Delaware Burn Camp.
“The camp came about because of some thought there was a need for a camp for kids here in Delaware who have suffered burns and been in the hospital,” explained John Lattomus, the camp’s director. “And we were able to get some legislation, a bill, passed to develop this camp.”
According to its Web site, the Delaware Burn Camp’s mission is to “assist young burn victims in their adjustment to injury through the provision of a safe, supportive environment and providing companionship through physical and social activities in a camp setting.”
The camp, which will run from Aug. 13 through Aug. 18, is not funded through the State, but rather through private donations and fundraisers. Local organizations, such as the Long Neck Sunrise and Southern Sussex Rotary Clubs and the Red Knights Motorcycle Club, make annual donations and even volunteer at the camp.
“It costs about $700 to $800 for child for the week, but the families don’t pay for any of it,” said Lattomus, adding that the Delaware Fire Service, as well as local restaurateurs donate all the food for the week-long camp. “It’s people like that that keep the cost way down on us.”
During camp, the kids will get to make ice cream sundaes, swim, fish, participate in a scavenger hunt and even have a talent show.
“We just want to give them a normal camp experience with kids who are like them,” said Lattomus.
He added that the camp gives the children attending the opportunity to bond with each other and share their experience of being burned.
“They will openly talk about it,” he said. “That’s the main reason for the camp — a lot of kids don’t want to talk about things because of the way people will look at them. You can see scarring from fires or scalds — when these kids walk around people go, ‘Ew’ and ‘Ah’ and that kind of thing. Down there, they can talk openly about it. They talk to each other. ‘How did you get burned?’ — all these kinds of questions, especially when a new child comes into camp. ‘What happened to you?’ ‘This is what happened to me.’ The kids talk pretty openly about it, and that’s what we want them to be.
“We want to teach them that they can talk to us there about it. They can talk to anyone about them,” he said.
Lattomus said that the camp has a tremendous number of nursing staff who come from area hospitals and even from A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital. For counselors, the camp has a teacher volunteering from Sussex Technical High School, a police officer from Lewes and even someone from the Delaware Fire Marshal’s Office, where Lattomus works.
“We have some counselors who have been burned,” he added. “We have a guy called ‘Crispy’ — that’s what he likes to be called, and he’s one of our counselors. He was burnt very bad by power burns. They set his clothes on fire.”
This year, the camp will also have a junior counselor who was once a camper himself.
“We had one boy who cried at the end of camp last year because he couldn’t come back because he was turning 18. We brought him back as a junior counselor. We just want to have him back so he can have fun.”
In its first year of operation, the camp only had six campers, and, this year, they’ll have 14, ranging in age from 6 to 18. Lattomus said that the camp has had some trouble finding children to participate because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
“We have to go looking for them, because under the HIPPA rule, hospitals can’t give us the names of kids. So we have to rely on people that know children who have been burned, to pass the word on. We try to get out with information however we can.”
Lattomus said the Delaware Burn Camp is thankful for the help of the Delaware State Police, for allowing camp to be held at Camp Barnes, as well as to the community, which has worked tirelessly to support their cause.
“We’re very grateful,” he said. “It’s just seems to keep coming in.”
For more information on the Delaware Burn Camp, or to recommend a child who would be eligible to participate, visit www.delawareburncamp.com.