Burn survivors feel at home at Camp Arroyo in Livermore

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area nonprofit group that helps children with life-threatening conditions is celebrating 25 years this year. It's a group we've covered many times over the years: The Taylor Family Foundation, which operates Camp Arroyo near Livermore. Some young burn survivors tell ABC7 News Anchor Cheryl Jennings that they enjoy meeting kids just like them.

VIDEO: Just Like Me - The Taylor Family Foundation
ABC7's Cheryl Jennings takes us through The Taylor Family Foundation's 25 years and introduces us to some courageous and inspiring people who are changing the lives of those in need.

You can't help but smile and laugh along with the kids enjoying this summer camp in Livermore. But when you look a little closer, you can see why this camp is especially important to the children and the counselors.

This is a camp for children who've survived terrible burns to their bodies or faces or both. They live with both physical and emotional scars. This camp is their therapy. Camp Arroyo is a safe haven for them.

When asked what he likes about camp, burn survivor Paul said, "I like camp cause you can go swimming, you can go rock climbing."

The 12-year-old survived burns from a house fire. He and all the campers feel comfortable showing their affection for the firefighters with the Firefighters Burn Institute. They all volunteer their time at burn camp.

This is what happens when you go to camp with firefighters -- they use a fire hose and sometimes even reporters and photographers get wet!

"It was fun because I was in the barrel and they kept spraying me," said a burn survivor named Julian.

When asked what happened to him, Julian said, "I got burned by a Christmas tree, it burned down my house. I lost my twin brother in that fire."

The 13-year-old has been coming to camp for five years. He was happy to be there because it's hard for him at home.

Julian: "Yeah, because some kids bully you, they make fun of you. They don't want to hang out with you. They don't let you sit at their table."
Cheryl: "Well, that's wrong, right, and camp makes it better, doesn't it?"
Julian: "Yes it does."

Michael, 17, was burned by scalding water when he was very little.

"I was about 3 and my dad put me in a bathtub and just kind of flipped it on and he had walked away," said Michael. "The water kind of filled up and I started screaming. I just kept trying to get out of the bathtub and I just couldn't."

He went on to say, "My leg was the worst. I had third degree, but the surgeons did absolutely amazing on my leg."

"I had pretty bad burns to my ears, both were black," said Aaron Williams with the Firefighters Burn Institute. "I thought i was going to lose part of them, but they healed up really good."

The 22-year-old firefighter is one of the counselors.

"It's a pretty big fireball and so I was caught in between that for about half a minute until my partners could pull me out," he said. "You know, thank goodness for them, thank goodness for their bravery and courageousness."

He went onto say, "I know the pain that they're going through and they know the pain I'm going through. Yesterday, I had kind of an emotional breakdown myself and my campers came and gave me a hug."

"I love that. A lot of their counselors are burn survivors, firemen and firewomen who are burn survivors themselves, so talk about a mentor and role model. You know, you can survive this burn and yes, it was horrific, but they're going to help them make their life filled with quality," said Elaine Taylor with The Taylor Family Foundation.

"It's easy to get excited about something you love," said Angie Carmignani, executive director of The Taylor Family Foundation. "There are days when I wake up and I literally can't get out of my house quick enough because I really am that excited to get to work because something's going on and you don't want to miss it."

The Taylor Family Foundation was founded by Elaine and Barry Taylor to help children with life-threatening illnesses or life altering conditions 25 years ago. And that is something to celebrate in a big way. Barry would have been so proud of this anniversary. But sadly, he passed away suddenly in 2013. His legacy will live on.

"I'm so proud of what we gave back to the community," said Elaine. "And, you know, it's not about the awards or accolades or any of that, it's about the impact we've made and the lives we changed and the people who came into our lives. You know, they taught us more than we could give them."

Day in the Park
TTFF will celebrate 25 years of giving at its annual Day in the Park auction fundraiser scheduled for Sunday, August 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Camp Arroyo in Livermore.

Click here to learn more about the event and click here to learn how you can donate to help The Taylor Family Foundation.

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