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An Inspirational Summer Camp For Burn Survivors

Evening Edition

Aired 8/3/12 on KPBS News.

Camp Beyond the Scars gives burn survivors a chance to talk about their injuries.

Campers from San Diego, the Inland Empire and Orange County made their way to Coronado for a special field trip. It's part of the Burn Institute's "Camp Beyond the Scars" program.

Some of these kids have never been exposed to surfing, sailing or kayaking. More than 70 campers ranging in age from five to 17 were assisted by counselors in training from the Burn Institute. It's one of the few camps in the country offering kids support and a chance to talk about their injuries and what they're going through.

"Maybe their friends don't understand, they don't know how to react," camper Jessica Capoocia said. She's from Lakeside has literally grown up with the camp. This is her ninth year after suffering severe burns to her back when she was just seven years old.

"I was helping my mom in the kitchen and we were making soup and I was tired, I didn't want to stand on the stool anymore, she told me not to get down, but I didn't listen, like little kids usually do, and I knocked it down all over the floor and was pretty much taking a bath in it," Capoocia said.

"Most campers we have are injured through cup of noodles or pull down accidents from stoves. But the cool water is soothing for them and a beautiful day at the beach is great," volunteer director Arnie Garcia said. He knows what it's like to go through the fire and has the scars to prove it. He was burned on both legs trying to put out a vehicle fire.

"I was burned in the line of duty with San Diego Fire and about 10 years after the burn I found the Burn Institute in 1993 and became involved as a counselor initially and eventually the camp director," he said.

Although Garcia is a mentor for these young campers, he says it's a two way street. The road to recovering from a severe burn is tough, but seeing the smiles on their faces, despite the injury, is inspirational.

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