The smell of warm, buttery popcorn wafted through the air as children of all ages trickled into the elegant showroom of Schomp MINI in northern Highlands Ranch. They collected pizza and ice cream, paired with an assortment of toppings, before sitting with their families at round tables.
The children have one thing in common: they were once pediatric burn patients at the Children's Hospital Colorado Burn Center. They gathered that evening to connect over their experiences at the Children's Hospital Burn Camps Program, created in 1983 to assist patients and families in the physical and emotional recovery process.
“That was an experience that really helped us get through the whole situation,” said Larry Medina, who attended a burn camp with his son, Logan, who at 9 months old suffered burns to 60 percent of his body from an accident in the kitchen. “We met other families who were going through similar situations, and we got to know that we weren't the only ones going through that.”
Schomp Automotive offered to host the July 25 ice cream social because it coincided with its annual Children's Hospital Colorado Sales Event, held over one week in the summer to raise money for the burn center. The automotive group also backed the mission of the ice cream social.
“It's basically a mixer for children to talk about their experiences and ease the anxiety of kids who are going” to the burn camps, Carla Finn, Schomp's director of events and sponsorship, said. “We are proud to be part of that.”
Schomp has been active with Children's Hospital since 1986, the year of the first downtown Littleton Ralph Schomp Fire Truck Parade and Muster, in collaboration with Mile High Hook and Ladder, a club of firefighters and fire truck collectors.
In 1990, the club grew the annual event to include a fundraiser benefiting Children's Hospital Burn Center. Club members supported the program because of their personal experience with burn victims.
Schomp took over the sales event 29 years ago and has since raised more than $400,000 for the burn center. Every year, the weeklong fundraiser brings in at least $25,000 from donations and a portion of sales, according to Schomp representatives.
The fundraiser is vital to the Burn Camps Program, which survives off fundraised dollars.
“We work diligently to foster relationships with people,” said Trudy Boulter, the program's director. “If it speaks to you, people will donate, and we can actually watch kids change.”
The Burn Camps Program offers three camps, free of cost to families and patients. The summer camp takes place at Rocky Mountain National Park, the winter camp is hosted in Steamboat Springs and the family camp is at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park.
The camps connect burn survivors with peers and teach them skills to integrate into their new norm.
“It goes all the way on the spectrum to aftercare, for those families who need help on what's next, what's the new normal,” Boulter said. “We have camps to provide that emotional healing once the physical scars heal.”
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