601 Boston Post Road Milford, CT 06460

UCONN Students Make Camp Fun for Young Burn Survivors

By Claire Galvin, Chronicle Staff Writer

STORRS/UNION – For children suffering or recovering from horrible burns, enjoying traditional summer camp activities can be nearly impossible.

However, at the Arthur C. Luf Children’s Burn Camp in Union, one of two camps of its kind in the Northeast, child burn survivors are able to swim, boat, hike, fish and practice archery without fear or judgment.

And thanks to two University of Connecticut nursing students, the campers’ journeys toward an enjoyable summer were made that much easier.

Jill Newall of Stratford and Amber Ruan of Durham, nursing students in the UConn School of Nursing’s (CEIN/BS) program, volunteered their time for the week-long camp earlier this month.

There, they helped the medical team and aided with traditional camp activities.

“We were able to see how these children’s self-esteem blossomed through the week,” Ryan, a 26-year-old, said. “There is nothing these children can’t do when they put their minds toward it.”

The camp welcomed about 70 children ages 8-18 with life-altering burns from around the country.

The entire staff are volunteers who are nurses, medical care professionals, firefighters and emergency medical services staff.

“We were so excited for the women to get the experience at the camp,” the director of the CEIN/BS program, Nancy Manister, said. “Burn survivors are such a special group of patients that our students do not usually observe in the hospital. We cannot say enough about the women and their efforts.”

The experience was part of their pediatrics’ course.

Instead of spending time in a hospital, the nursing program was able to develop this partnership, Manister said.

“The camp was a different kind of life than we’ve been learning,” Ryan said. “Most of the camper were fully healed, but they had many scars, both emotionally and physically.”

Ryan and Newall helped with stomach aches, bug bits, bandaging, home-sickness, cuts, scrapes, lice checks and medication organization.

Both women said they would like to volunteer next year and directors of the camp said they would be thrilled to have them.

“The hardest part of the week was saying goodbye to the campers and to the staff,” 24-year-old Newall said. “Everyone was crying on the last day. They are such an accepting family.”

The CEIN/BS program is a fifth-year program.

Students enter with a bachelor’s degree in another concentration, such as Newall’s bachelor’s degree in biology and Ryan’s bachelor’s degree in psychology.

They graduate after the year with a certificate and bachelor’s degree in nursing.

The Arthur C. Luf Children’s Burn Camp, which began in 1991, is located on 176 acres in Union, which is on the Massachusetts line near Sturbridge, Mass.

All the children attend free of charge because all expenses are paid for through the foundation.