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Burn ski camp offers hope, acceptance for child survivors

Steamboat hosts camp now in its 33rd year
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Posted at 4:22 PM, Dec 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-28 18:25:41-05

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- They represent miracle stories of survival and perseverance.

“We just come to have fun and get together and experience things that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” said 18-year-old burn survivor Dontrell Gardner.

Children’s Hospital Colorado’s burn camp is now in its 33rd year.

“Camp started in 1983,” said Trudy Boulter, the current director of the camp and an occupational therapist at Children’s. “We brought kids from all over the United States.”

The camp is children, mostly between the ages of 14 and 18, all of whom are burn survivors.

“I think it's just like a second home," said 16-year-old burn survivor Emily Carrillo.

“Burn injury is one of those things that is such a traumatic injury," said Boulter. “Lots of times if you've had a burn injury, you don't know anybody else who's had a burn injury."

But at this camp, they do.

“I think it's just acceptance and a place where you belong every year," Carrillo said.

"It's an amazing experience," said Gardner.

All have their own heartbreaking and harrowing stories.

"House fires and explosions," said Boulter. “And the most common form in children is scalding.”

“When I was eight, the apartments that I was living in burned down," said Carrillo. “I kind of panicked and just ran down the stairs and burned my legs.”

Carrillo’s entire family survived.

Gardner’s mother suffered from schizophrenia.

"And she had poured gasoline over me and my brothers and sisters," Gardner said.

Their house burned to the ground. All survived, except Gardner’s youngest sister.

"This week is really, it's a break from life,” he said of the camp.

"All of these kids are a huge, huge gift," Boulter said. "We push them here. Whenever you're pushed to your edge, sometimes you learn the most."

“When I come here, everybody understands - I'm normal," Gardner said.

About 30 kids participated in this year’s camp.

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