The Burbank Fire Department hosted a holiday event for families of the Children’s Burn Foundation (CBF) on Saturday, December 2nd, held at Station 11, the department’s headquarters facility.
Families lined up to enter the festive event that was organized by CBF, a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent the pain and trauma of burn injuries to children and to heal children who have suffered severe burns physically, psychologically, and socially through their full recovery program. In the last fiscal year, 163,504 people received services from CBF.
Retired Burbank Fire Chief Eric Garcia was introduced to the foundation a few years back when CBF was recognizing the LA Firefighters, and Garcia was the President of the Los Angeles Fire Chiefs Association. He immediately wanted to get involved in the organization and knew his facility at Station 11 was the perfect place to host something special.
Chief Garcia had started to get the ball rolling with the event coordination, but in September of this year, Garcia retired from the department. Burbank’s newly appointed Fire Chief, Danny Alvarez, was excited with the idea Garcia had started, and they worked together to continue their plans for the holiday event.
While the fire department supplied the event space, CBF organized the event, creating a spectacular holiday party with crafts, a candy station, photos with Santa, games, dancing, and gifts for every child. This year’s theme was Elf on the Shelf, and handmade decor hung from every tent corner, sign, and edge of the firehouse. Volunteers put together gingerbread houses that sat at the center of every table.
Tanya Sorkin is the Chief Program Officer at the foundation and shared how their organization helps child burn survivors from the time they are burned up until they are 18 years old and sometimes even further to make sure they complete their counseling. “We have support groups, and camps, and one of the things that we do is a celebration where they can come together as a huge family,” said Sorkin, who expressed how one family dove out from Las Vegas to attend the event. “They come here to meet others who are just like them, and they can be themselves.”
Program Manager Lainie L’Orange worked closely with Chief Garcia to partner and bring the event to Burbank. She also felt it was important to support and utilize local Burbank businesses for the event, including food, rentals, and more. Kids came to take pictures with Santa in front of a shiny, red fire engine that was printed and put in a frame for the families. A live DJ got kids excited with games of limbo and hula hoop while other kids crafted reindeer and snowmen.
Every child received a gift according to their age group, and complimentary food and drinks were served to all the guests. For the teens, they had a pop-up tent where they could come inside to get fitted for a new pair of shoes. Over 50 volunteers were in attendance to make the event possible as they ran around in Elf on the Shelf costumes and red aprons, bringing smiles to so many children from the foundation.
Many of the volunteers at the event were burn survivors themselves or parents of burn survivors who came back to help support the organization that supported them during their hardest days. Sandra Correa, a volunteer who was passing out water bottles, is a burn survivor and comes to help at these events every year. Over 20 years ago, Correa and her two-and-a-half-year-old son were burned in a car accident and treated at CBF. Through their efforts, she is able to volunteer and reunite with families she has grown to know at the center. “It’s a big reminder that even though there are struggles, there is always hope,” said Correa.
Fritz Coleman, retired Channel 4 weatherman, is a member of the Board of Trustees and attended the event to interview board members for his social media campaigns that he uses to promote the foundation and fire safety. “One of the joyful things about my whole career in the news business is being invited to participate in nonprofit events,” said Coleman. “There’s not a group that I’ve ever been involved with that is more inspirational, more necessary than this, because you get to see kids with their lives saved, their quality of life increased, and their families being able to recoup some sense of normalcy. I just love it, and I’m very passionate about this time of year when we get the community here and see the smiles on their faces. It’s very important to me.”
The Children’s Burn Foundation works hard to not only help the kids heal but the parents as well. “There’s no set way to navigate recovery and every burn is unique and treated differently. When a burn happens, a lot of the time there is guilt involved, and we work with parents to teach them what to do,” said Kristin Clink, the foundation’s Executive Director. “A family will come here with a five-year-old and see another family with a 14-year-old here, and it gives them a lot of hope.”
The event was a huge success and, hopefully, a long-term partnership between the Burbank Fire Department and the Children’s Burn Foundation. To learn more about what CBF does or to donate to their cause, visit https://www.childburn.org/.