In January of 1998, a happy beautiful six year old danced around her living room, mouthing the words to “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” from the movie Hercules. She loved the way her dress ¾ well, her aunt’s old skirt with arm holes cut into it ¾ twirled as she did. It was such a perfect setting: dark living room lit with a crackling fire, and Disney music. As the song ended, she sat in front of the fireplace, and dramatically flipped her dress back. The next thing she knew, she was on fire. She screamed, and ran in circles around her living room. “Daddy!” she cried. Her dad came racing into the room to find his daughter on fire. He grabbed a towel and hit out the flames, but it was too late. “Daddy, just call the ambulance,” she said. Then everything went black.
That little girl was me.
My name is Jenny Therrien, and at age six, I was burned – first, second, and third degree to my back and right arm, making up 30% of my body. I was in a coma, and then spent over a month in the hospital. My accident not only left physical scarring, but also emotional.
For the past 16 years I have attended BC Burn Camp – both as a camper, and for the last five years, a volunteer counsellor. It happens annually, for six days, and brings together children from all over British Columbia to an environment where there is an immeasurable amount of love and support: nobody is judging, and nobody stares. As a child, I had to recover from the physical trauma, however as a teenager, it was about the emotional trauma, and my scars became a source for a lot of self-hatred. Burn Camp was my sanctuary, and the connections I made carried me through the next 359 days to follow. At 17, I wrote a note on the public forum known as Facebook, saying this about camp and how it changed my life:
“In those six days, whatever was taken from me during my accident is replenished. For every year I attend camp, I endure an evolution: I find little pieces of myself that I thought I had lost – confidence, for the most part. With each year that passes, my story changes: I am no longer a burn victim. I am a burn survivor.”
Now as a counsellor, to be able to share in these kids’ journeys of self-acceptance and healing is an honour and blessing, especially when I’m alongside some of the most incredible, selfless and dedicated fire fighters, nurses, and volunteers. Children are such a light, and it’s truly grounding and inspiring to watch their magic flourish even after they’ve experienced immeasurable amounts of pain and suffering.
This camp, and this organisation, changes lives, and helps the campers realize that their scars are a sign of beauty and strength in a world which glorifies perfection. It definitely did so for me.