Posts Tagged ‘Champ Camp’

You Can Always Help: Auto-Giving That Doesn’t Cost a Dime

I know that I am not exactly the same as every other duck in the pond, and I know that the charge I get, personally, from volunteering might occur as a drag for someone else. No harm in that on either end, but I am also always on the lookout for ways to make a difference in a passive, non-energy-draining way. A way to give that doesn’t take extra effort, extra time, or extra dollars.

Well, here’s one of those. When you shop at Amazon, and a gazillion of us do, try logging in a little differently next time. Type in:, and you will go to Amazon’s simple, automatic way to support your favorite charity. With no extra cost or effort to you, the shopper, Amazon will donate a portion of all your eligible purchases (most of them) to your chosen non-profit. The page auto-loads with some big, national, well-known charities (Red Cross, Wounded Warriors, etc), but if there is a smaller organization that inspires you, you can choose your own charity, and if they are in the registry, they will be your delegated recipient of the donations that don’t cost you a dime. You only need choose your charity once, next time you come back to shop via, it will be there unless you change it.

Photo:, Isaiah with camp counselor

Photo:, Isaiah with camp counselor

If you kind of don’t care one way or the other, but still like the idea of since-I’m-shopping-anyway-I-might-as-well-help-somebody…I have a personal recommendation. When you go to and can choose your charity, consider AARBF (The Alisa Ann Ruch California Burn Foundation). This foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of burn-injured children and adults with direct services, care, education, and prevention. One of the largest programs of many that happen throughout the state (but you don’t need to live in California to support!) and throughout the year, is Champ Camp, a week-long summer camp for burn survivors ages 5-16. I am leaving tomorrow morning to be a counselor for these kids that have genuinely changed my life.

From the AARBF “Burn Bulletin”:

For many children, summer is a joyous time of the year in which swimming pool parties, trips to the beach and backyard barbeques are essentials for the season. But for thousands of burn-injured children, summer can be an uncomfortable time of the year due to sensitivity to sunlight exposure, susceptibility to skin sun damage, painful dryness and itchiness of the skin, difficulties regulating body temperature and anxiety and fear of unwanted stares.

The healing process for most burn survivors includes skin grafts, physical therapy, long-term doctors’ care, special diets, daily dressing changes, pressure garments and, in some cases, prosthetics and/or wheelchairs. But in addition to the physical healing, burn survivors must adapt to their physical limitations; work through and heal from their mental and emotional scars; regain their self-esteem; assimilate back into society; and overcome their feelings of isolation with support from others facing the same issues.

Burn camps answer the questions asked after the doctors save the life of someone with a burn injury: How do you get a burn survivor back into society? How do you get their peers and others to accept their new appearance and abilities? How do you get people not to stare, not to make fun of them?

The work really matters, and if your Amazon shopping can help get one more kid to camp or into other important programs, I hope you’ll consider it.

See you after camp!

-MONKEY (that’s my camp name)

Ricky’s Revolution: Monkeys Saving Us



My camp name at Champ Camp is “Monkey” and for most of my interactions with people there and on facebook and texts throughout the year, that is the only name several people know. It’s a pretty good camp name–it allows for lots of accessorizing with monkey t-shirts, banana themes, monkey toys for the cabin, etc. Because of it, my eyes are always peeled for monkey things…so it is not a huge surprise that I would be so enamored of Ricky’s Revolution, a charitable organization that is helping runaway and homeless youth…with Ricky…a monkey.

Ricky is a stuffed monkey that has life saving emergency phone numbers embroidered on his arms. These numbers are for Rape Crisis; National Organization of Rape, Incest and Abuse; Domestic Violence Hotline; Runaway Hotline; and Emergency Shelter Hotlines. Volunteers across the country form “shelter teams” and go to homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, etc to deliver these little bundles of comfort and love (and there is a big need for volunteers, so find out more!). For a kid living on the street or on the run from someone and staying in a shelter…the teddy bear-like comfort of a stuffed animal friend is a big deal, and the fact that Ricky also gives you tangible access to resources if you need them, makes him function as a double whammy of compassion.

The founder of the organization was a runaway teen, and she carried a stuffed monkey she’d named Ricky when she was on the streets. The comfort of her friend in the face of a brutal abduction and rape, and the ensuing spiral into despair, led her, as an adult, to recognize how one small token can mean the world to an individual. Get on board with Ricky’s Revolution, support, donate, volunteer–help make young people fighting against the odds know they’re not in it alone.

Monkeys will save the world if you let us!

Changers Profile: Kirky “Xena” Kirkendall

XenaIf you were a blog reader here over this past summer, you know about the outstanding impact my volunteering at Champ Camp for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation had on me. A world-class camp for kids who are burn survivors, Champ Camp draws the most amazing people—campers and volunteers alike. As a counselor for my cabin of “Rancheros” (8-10 year-olds) I really won the volunteer lottery—I was over the moon for those kids—I still am. The volunteers at camp are some of the most dedicated I’ve known, and there is a very organized system of leadership. The unit leader of our Ranchero age group (my direct boss, I suppose) was Xena, aka Kirky Kirkendall. I didn’t know her name then—we all exclusively use our camp names—I am Monkey—and many of us will never learn the actual names of others, even after years of working together.

Next summer, Xena will step into a larger role at camp, and become one of two Camp Directors, meaning the buck stops here. We’ll be lucky having her as one of the Queen Bees…and honestly, I wish every one of you could meet her and hang out with her and have her crack you up for a week…but until you come volunteer with us at Camp (or other volunteer activities with the foundation), you can meet Xena this way:

Tell me a little bit about what you will be doing at Champ Camp 2014 (Not as opposed to previous years, but in general, for readers who are unaware of the program) and your history at camp. How did you first get involved?

Burn survivors are affected both psychologically and physically by the injuries that they endure. Many of the survivors are very young and are burned as a result of an accident of some kind. These youth then have to adapt to an entire new persona. Burns at any age can be traumatic due to the physical changes and adaptations which need to happen. For those that are burned at a young age, however, the physical and “natural” difficulties of growing up become that much more difficult.

I became acutely aware of these difficulties in 2009 as my nephew (he was 17 at the time) became a burn survivor when he was electrocuted. He thought there was a brush fire and was going to try to help put it out, but it was actually a downed power line. His chest caught on fire and a volt went through his body. He was changed forever! He would always be nervous and stressed somehow by power lines and his skin would always have issues and need different surgeries. It is amazing how important skin is to our self-perception, self-worth, and confidence. To this day he is having to re-create himself, as so many youths are doing….

This is what compelled me to be involved in Champ Camp through the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, a summer camp for any youth between 5-16 that has been treated for burns in California. This camp creates an opportunity for youth to play and be, for one week at least, “normal”, without scars, to play confidently, and laugh. I started to volunteer in this experience as a counselor four years ago and will transition this year humbly to be a director of this camp with Jeeter (who is a co-director with me) with 80 other of my dearest friends who also volunteer. (More after the jump) Continue reading

Honoring Fallen Fire Fighters and Supporting Families

The purple ribbon to honor fallen firefighters

The purple ribbon to honor fallen firefighters

Perhaps because of my recent work with the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation at this summer’s Champ Camp, and the opportunity to work alongside the most dedicated volunteers I’ve ever met–many of whom are firefighters, EMTs, medical professionals, and other heroes, the news of the firefighters killed in the line of duty in Arizona has hit me harder than expected. While not a member of this amazing community of life savers, they mean the world to me. Firefighters are a rare breed, with passion and dedication that surpasses most.

The 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots Crew that were lost on June 30 are the cream of the crop.

In direct response to the needs, both immediate and long-term, of the families left behind, a couple of organizations are worth your generous support (as are others not listed here, of course). An organization honoring the fallen crew has specifically focused on these two: The Heroes Memorial Foundation, “honoring all who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom” (their survivor support programs work with those left behind by law enforcement family members as well as fire fighters and first responders); and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, dedicated to helping the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assisting injured and their families.

I know we all look for ways to reach out, to thank, and to support those that need it most. I hope you’ll take a piece of your day to learn more about these organizations, click on the links, and give if you can–dollars are nice, but so is amplification of the message–tell your network of family and friends about ways they can help as well.

Volunteer for Burn Survivors

I can’t even tell you how excited I am for this new adventure–I leave today for Champ Camp, where I will be a counselor for summer camp for kids who are survivors of serious burn injuries. Free to the campers (my “Rancheros” are ages 8-10) and fully staffed by medical teams and a bunch of goofy counselors like me (my camp name is “Monkey”) who will go to the ends of the earth to make this the best week EVER!

Because I’ll be away for the next 10 days, and off the grid, I won’t be able to refresh the blog–I hope you’ll be patient with me and come back after June 17, when I will have amazing stories from camp as well as a lot of other summer volunteer ideas, some fantastic interviews I’m excited about bringing you, and international service travel opportunities to help you find a way to get out there and give.

In the mean time–send me messages via the blog to let me know how you and your family are spending the summer giving of yourselves to someone or something. I’d love to toot your horns and use your stories to inspire others–you know how good giving feels.