Summer camp offers a safe place of healing for burn survivors

For the past 33 years, Camp I Am Me by Illinois Fire Safety Alliance has helped young burn survivors throughout Illinois by providing a place of acceptance and healing at its yearly summer camp held at YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside. This year’s camp will be held from June 16-22.

Camp I Am Me’s signature Summer Camp program offers a diverse range of activities for campers aged 8-20, in addition to specialized therapeutic sessions and support groups that allow them to say, “I am me,” despite any physical or emotional scars resulting from a burn injury.

In this nonjudgmental environment, survivors feel more comfortable sharing their experiences with others who have had similar experiences.

The campers enjoy activities like wall climbing, horseback riding, fishing, a high ropes course, a talent show, crafts, and more, that bring them together to be supportive of one another.

Kelly McElligott, the Camp I Am Me president and burn outreach coordinator at Loyola Medicine in Maywood, said, “Due to a generous network of sponsors, donors, and volunteers, we are able to offer this unique and empowering experience free of charge to survivors of burn injuries due to fire, electricity, chemicals and even scalding water. We invite anyone who wants to support our mission to get involved with this special journey of healing.”

The summer camp’s ultimate goal is to help burn survivors rebuild their self-esteem and confidence, which is why more than a third of its volunteers are survivors who previously attended camp as young people. Over the last three-plus decades, the summer camp has positively impacted hundreds of lives, as evidenced by campers and volunteers returning year after year.

“It’s truly heartwarming to see how camp can positively impact these young people. It provides them with a strong support system filled with people who understand their experiences, which can change their lives for the better — both emotionally and psychologically,” said Philip Zaleski, Camp I Am Me executive director.

The summer camp sees volunteers from Illinois’ fire service and medical community, educators, and individuals from the private sector. The camp aims to maintain a one-to-one volunteer to camper ratio. Although Camp I Am Me has met its volunteer needs for this year’s summer camp, there are other ways to get involved in the organization’s mission, which can be found at

For more information about summer camp and other burn injury survivor support programs, as well as fire safety and burn prevention resources provided by Camp I Am Me, visit

About Camp I Am Me by Illinois Fire Safety Alliance:

Camp I Am Me by Illinois Fire Safety Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers safe, nonjudgmental environments for children and adults who have experienced severe burn injuries. Since 1989, Camp I Am Me has brought support, strength, and happiness to hundreds of children, adults, and families. The organization is supported by generous volunteers and donors, including medical and fire service professionals who donate their time and services. Thousands of campers and survivors have attended Camp I Am Me programs since the organization’s inception. In all, there are 20-plus programs that meet the needs of individuals and families who have been affected by burn-related injuries.

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