What did you do this summer? That’s likely the most common question you’ll hear in the hallways when the first day of school rolls around. For a few very special St. Louis-area students, they’ll be able to say that a highlight of their summer was attending camp—a place where they can experience and enjoy crafts, dancing, zip-lining, kayaking, canoeing and water-tubing to their heart’s content.

But what makes the Midwest Children’s Burn Camp extra-special is its safe and supportive environment for young burn survivors, who spend the week connecting and sharing their journey with others just like them.

Burn Camp is the only one of its kind in Missouri for children ages 6 to 17 with serious and traumatic burn injuries. Each year, it hosts as many as 80 to 90 campers from all over the Midwest, with a large percentage of them coming from the St. Louis area.

“There is no charge for kids to attend camp—it is privately funded 100 percent,” said Lynn Huelsmann, executive director of Burns Recovered, an organization founded in 1983 by a group of burn survivors with the assistance of the burn care team at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

Burns Recovered provides support for burn survivors and their families, as well as community awareness programs to prevent serious burn injuries. Burn Camp was created in 1997 by Linda and Gary Hansen, who both became involved with Burns Recovered following Gary’s automobile accident that left him with severe, life-threatening burns. The camp is the organization’s largest program.

“All the money donated to us for camp supports the kids’ attendance—lodging, transportation, food, things like that,” Huelsmann noted. “More than 50 percent of campers come from homes that are financially distressed. Some kids don’t even have swimsuits or tennis shoes or bedding.”

But perhaps the biggest concern for these young campers is learning how to cope with their physical—and psychological—scars.

“It’s pretty remarkable when you think of someone who has to physically heal from burns. It’s more serious and painful for a person to go through, as it requires a lot of time for the injuries to heal. Many are still going through procedures a year or so later,” Huelsmann explained. “The other part is the physical scarring. It’s difficult, whether you are a child or an adult. Maybe questions about your appearance are not framed in the nicest way. And sometimes, children will be bullied because of it.”

Burn Camp is held at Camp Sabra in the Lake of the Ozarks, and takes place this year from Aug. 7 to 13, Huelsmann said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the campers and experiencing camp just like them,” she said. “You get the opportunity to be a kid again, especially with a group of people who have had to overcome so much…”

MISSION: To assist burn survivors in their recovery, support medical facilities in the care of burns in Missouri, and educate the public in burn awareness and prevention.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Burns Recovered and Neiman Marcus present the fifth annual More Than a Fashion Show to benefit the Midwest Children’s Burn Camp. A highlight of the Thursday, Sept. 7, event is a runway show featuring campers alongside Neiman Marcus models. Event co-chairs are Sheri Sherman and Faith Berger. For ticket information, or for details on how to donate or volunteer, call 997-2757 or visit brsg.org.