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Returning Volunteers Enhance Burn Camp with Social Work Skills, Continuity

Burn Camp

Posted Sept. 27, 2011
Reported by Emily Williams

School of Social Work volunteers have made their mark at Camp Oo-U-La over the last 12 summers, not only in sheer numbers—a  quarter of all of the volunteers at the camp are social work students or alumni—but they also bring an exceptional skill set to camp. They come equipped to help in various staff positions, as well as assist with the psychosocial needs of the campers and other volunteers. Many also bring a unique continuity as they return year after year. “Talk time” and camper/parent evaluations are just a few things social workers have influenced and formally introduced at camp.

This year, four students who volunteered as B.S.W. students returned as advanced standing MSW students.  “Mckenzie Bailey, Jessica Bates, Jason Simpson and  Caroline Lozen were able to do very specialized projects for the camp that volunteers don’t normally get to do because they are not familiar with the camp,” said Associate Professor Stacey Kolomer, who leads students who take her Social Work with Burn Survivors service-learning course during the Maymester “Burn Camp.” “You can see over time how social work has influenced the camp to go in a direction that’s not all about fun. It is ok to have some time that focuses on kids’ burns,” she said.

Last year Dana Dillard, an MSW alumna and programs director for the Georgia Firefighter’s Burn Foundation (GFBF), along with Dennis Gardin, the executive director of the GFBF and a burn survivor, and a camp counselor implemented “talk time,” formal time set aside to talk about campers’ burn injuries. It became evident after reviewing camper evaluations from last year that “talk time” was really important to the kids, Kolomer explained.

Bailey and Simpson developed a resource to guide support groups for the camp with the intention of building on activities each year. The resource included activities the camp can use with children of all ages to help facilitate support groups and emotional healing. Lozen conducted special evaluations with every single kid in the camp to see what camp meant to them, what new things they would like to do and ideas for the future. Bates directed parent evaluations asking parents how camp influences their child during the year, what camp means to their child and ideas for new activities to help their child during the week of camp.

Kolomer, along with Dillard, plan to use the data collected from the evaluations in a research paper on the burn camp experience.

Dillard was instrumental in starting DAWGs (Dynamic Assessors and Wellness Girls) several years ago as a resource provided by social work volunteers to ensure the emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing of all campers and staff at camp. The group was established after the camp director identified the need and recognized the skill set social workers brought to camp.

Camp Oo-U-La is a weeklong summer camp for Georgia children between the ages of 7 and 17 who have spent at least four days in the burn unit of a hospital. Nearly 100 campers attend the camp each summer. “Burn Camp” is sponsored by the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation who partners with Camp Twin Lakes to host the camp at their Will-A-Way location inside Ft. Yargo State Park.

Funding for Camp Oo-U-La is provided by GFBF’s annual Boot Drive and a new fundraiser, Spin for Kids, raises money through mountain and road bike rides on Oct. 22-23. For more information and to register, visit The GFBF offers programming year-round on prevention and education as well as support and recovery for burn survivors in the state of Georgia.  

Kolomer’s course, Social Work with Burn Survivors or Burn Camp, is a three-credit intensive learning experience. Students learn about the process of burn recovery, gain understanding of the systems impact of a burn injury on the individual, family and community, acquire knowledge of the experience of critical care personnel, and actively participate as volunteers. Students stay on-site at the camp and participate in a variety of capacities that support the camp community.

Kolomer will hold an information session Nov. 7 for those who are interested in learning more about Burn Camp. For more information or to apply, please contact Kolomer at Applications are due by January 20.