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Jennifer Hardman

Burn camp provides support for young burn survivors

By Mike Anderson | Posted - Sep 27th, 2013 @ 6:23pm


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MILLCREEK — The University of Utah Burn Camp helps children cope with some devastating injuries. More than 20 fire stations are raising funds to help keep the program alive Saturday.

If you let a kid inside a fire station, it's a pretty safe bet that he's going to ask questions. That's what Payton Wilhelmsen, 11, did on Friday as part of the University of Utah Burn Camp.

However, Payton's curiosity once got the better of him when he and his cousin played "chicken" with a water heater.

"And I know people say 'Stop, drop, and roll,' but the truth is when you're on fire, it's too scary. You can't think of anything but run," Payton said.

Payton was severely burned on his back and arm. He said the attention from the physical change was difficult at first.

"They just look, because some people don't even know what it is. They've never seen it before," Payton said.

Payton said he found hope in talking with other burn survivors.

"If you know that there's someone else to talk to, then your life's not over and it's good," Payton said.

At Burn Camp, survivors learn to change their mentality, hopefully turning an adversity into something positive.

Mitch King with The Unified Fire Authority has worked with the Burn Camp for more than a dozen years, including several years working with Payton.

"He's a great big-brother. He puts his arm around other kids that are having a tough time," King said.

While the camp exists for kids like Payton, King said he has gained strength from it too.

"When you have a survivor that has been through something that is that traumatic and they have a great look on life, then the piddly little things that are going on in my life mean nothing," King said.

And a little change in perspective has made things better for Payton.

"I got burned and it happened. I'm not gonna let it stop me from anything," Payton said.

To help raise funds, the Burn Camp and firefighters are hosting a chili cook-off at the Gateway on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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