MFR Firefighter/Paramedic Niki Crippen is spending this week at the International Burn Camp in Washington, D.C.
A firefighter/paramedic at Midway Fire Rescue, Crippen was chosen to represent South Carolina after volunteering at Camp Can Do, MUSC’s burn camp, this summer.
“I’m very excited. I’m very nervous,” Crippen said. “I’ve heard it’s an awesome experience. We’re pretty much on the go for seven days.”
The camp is sponsored by the International Firefighters Association Union and attended by one boy or girl between the ages of 13 and 15 and one adult volunteer from each state.
Crippen is accompanying Casi Smith, who she met at the MUSC camp.
She said she is looking forward to seeing Casi interact with new kids.
“I’m excited and nervous for her all at the same time,” Crippen said.
Jill Evans, coordinator of pediatric burn services at MUSC, said Crippen was an “obvious choice” because of how well she got along with Smith.
Crippen volunteered part-time at the camp two years ago, and then was one of about 40 full-time volunteers this year. “That’s ideal,” Evans said. “Once you … come to camp you kind of get it.”
“I had a lot of fun,” Crippen said. “It’s definitely very rewarding.”
The burn camp, which is free for the kids, was started 18 years ago by Charleston firefighters. It’s now one of the longest running pediatric burn camps.
MUSC hosts about 40 to 45 kids ages 6-17 a year for the five-day, overnight camp at Camp St. Christopher on Seabrook Island.
“We are purely a fun camp for the kids,” Evans said.
There is also some peer counseling, and support from volunteers, most of whom are firefighters or nurses.
“We help them just hang out and be normal,” Crippen said. “It’s fun to see them be normal and be around kids who maybe have the same experience.”
Evans said burn injuries are so rare, in many cases the kids have never met anybody else with similar injuries until they get to the camp.
“It really makes a difference for the kids,” she said.
“It’s very humbling,” Crippen said. “I don’t even know if there are words to put it into. It’s refreshing to see them so happy and so elated about life because they’re interacting with other people.”
When Crippen was younger a friend of her’s was burned in a plane crash.
“It’s a hard process to see someone go through that,” she said. “My heart goes out to [the kids] because they’ve pretty much conquered the world when they go through something like that.”
Evans said a lot of the kids attend the camp every year and then return as junior counselors when they are older.
“That’s really our measure of success,” Evans said.
Crippen raised money for the burn camp by posing for a America’s Female Firefighters Association calendar. She was Miss January 2013.
“I got teased about it for a while,” she said.
The burn camp also relies on donations from aluminum can recycling from more than 100 fire departments in South Carolina, including Midway, Georgetown County, Murrells Inlet-Garden City, Surfside Beach and Horry County.
“That’s really the backbone of our funding,” Evans said.
Georgetown County’s Fire Department also sells green T-shirts around St. Patrick’s Day and donates the proceeds to camp Can Do.
South Strand News