Each year our Aluminum Cans for Burned Children summer camp culminates with Fire Truck Day. On this day, more than 22 fire trucks and representatives from more than 26 fire departments join together to make a splash for our burn camp participants.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the day. Fire engines line the parking lot of the beach area at the Portage Lakes State Park. Pumpers with huge reservoirs of water are on hand. A couple of trucks have ladders extended 150 feet into the sky, drizzling water like a giant shower from the heavens. And it’s hard to top the City of Akron’s Foam Unit, a special unit that suffocates fires with foam.
Mary Mondozzi, a burn educator at Akron Children’s Hospital, said it’s a great relief to both the firefighters and our burn unit medical staff to be a part of the camp.
“These firefighters are often the first responders on the scene,” she said. “They save these kids from the fire and they deliver them to us at Children’s for care. We see them at their very worst. Burn Camp offers an opportunity for us to see the end result. To know that these kids really do get better.”
After a few words of welcome, the air fills with screaming sirens and honking fire trucks, making conversation impossible for at least 15 minutes. The water then begins to course through the hoses while the kids run through the parking lot, dodging streams of spray.
I noticed two teenage campers hanging together. Both were clad in bathing suits. Both had very visible burns all over their bodies. They were running through the foam spewing out of the Akron Foam Truck into a giant pool of white goop.
It struck me that this was probably the only time this summer these guys could just be one of the gang while wearing their suits. No one was going to ask them how they got their scars. No one was going to tease them about it. Only the campers and the people who worked so hard to save them could really appreciate the significance of that.
Then to everyone’s delight, Air Bear, the hospital’s dedicated pediatric transport helicopter, made a landing in the parking lot. The crew filed out and everyone gathered for a group shot at the helicopter.
This day gave me a glimpse of a very special community – crossing village and township jurisdictions – that comes together to celebrate life. And it was never clearer to me just how precious life can be.