The Catalyst

Firefighters, burned children go to Camp 'Can' Do together

By Ashley Barker
Public Relations

For the sixth summer in a row, Matthew Whaley spent five days in late June with fellow burn-injured children at Camp ‘Can’ Do at Seabrook Island.

City of Charleston firefighter and Camp ‘Can’ Do counselor Eric Glover and 10-year-old camper Matthew Whaley do their secret handshake in front of their cabin banner.
City of Charleston firefighter and Camp ‘Can’ Do counselor Eric Glover and 10-year-old camper Matthew Whaley do their secret handshake in front of their cabin banner.

The 10-year-old James Simons Elementary School student burned his arm while trying to make a cup of hot chocolate when he was just 5 years old and was introduced to the camp by one of his MUSC nurses. Matthew spent just a night at the MUSC Children’s Hospital, but he had to go back multiple times for about six months to make sure his wound was healing properly.

With just a small scar near the bend of his elbow now, Matthew said he learned his lesson about dealing with hot beverages.

“I still drink hot chocolate,” he said. “I’m just careful.”

Jill Evans, R.N., the coordinator of Pediatric Burn Services and administrator for Camp ‘Can’ Do, has been a nurse since 1989 and at MUSC for 22 years. She met Matthew shortly after his burn and spent a lot of time with the Whaley family as he recovered.

“Our No. 1 goal is to save the patient’s life. After that, our long-term goal is functionality, but you have to talk about scar management from the beginning with families,” she said. “With a burn over a joint like his, it’s ideal to be seen at MUSC because we can help prevent contractions and scarring.”

Two Camp ‘Can’ Do campers pick up their paddles and head to the water for a morning of kayaking.
Two Camp ‘Can’ Do campers pick up their paddles and head to the water for a morning of kayaking.

Evans has been planning each summer camp for the past 16 years – coming up with a budget and sticking to it, reviewing and accepting applications, performing background checks on counselors, updating the camp’s handbooks and overseeing all of the activities of the 35 burn-injured children ranging from 6 to 17 years old.

“I feel like camp is a group effort, and I really just organize and pull together the great work that the volunteers are doing,” said Evans.

She works closely with an eight-member board of directors of the South Carolina Burned Children’s Fund, which provides funding for Camp ‘Can’ Do. Much of the funding comes from the almost 100 fire departments in the state that collect aluminum cans to recycle. Several times between January and August of each year, Evans also meets with a camp planning committee, made up of volunteers from MUSC and the fire services, to make sure the week goes according to the plan.

“Wound and burn care is a good fit for me,” Evans said. “The best thing about my job is that I get to follow the patient from treatment to recovery and beyond when they come to camp.”

Children ages 6 to 17 with a history of burn injury went kayaking with community volunteers, including firefighters and MUSC Children’s Hospital staff, at Camp ‘Can’ Do.
Children ages 6 to 17 with a history of burn injury went kayaking with community volunteers, including firefighters and MUSC Children’s Hospital staff, at Camp ‘Can’ Do.

Campers and the more than 40 community volunteers, including area firefighters, spent time at the beach each day, went canoeing and kayaking, sat around a campfire, learned how to fish, tie-dyed T-shirts, took shag lessons, had an ice cream social, scrapbooked, played flag football, learned to paint and participated in firefighter games.

Matthew said he saw three alligators during his adventures, and when asked if he’d return next year, he replied, “Yes, of course … without question.”

He said his favorite part of the camp was seeing old friends and meeting new people, especially his bunkmate Eric Glover, a first-year camp counselor who is a City of Charleston firefighter.
“Matthew has been showing me around a lot,” Glover said. “Each day is filled with fun activities. I’m exhausted by the end of the day.”

Camp ‘Can’ Do, sponsored by MUSC Children’s Hospital Pediatric Burn Services and South Carolina Firefighters, is a free camp for children with a history of burn injury from throughout South Carolina.

To find out more information, visit http://scburnedchildrensfund.org/ or call 792-3852.

City of Charleston firefighter Eric Glover and 10-year-old camper Matthew Whaley go kayaking together.
 
 
 

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