Camp BUCKO: A Safe Place for Burn Survivors
February 1, 2020 by Alexander Rodriguez

BUCKO stands for Burn Camp for Kids in Ontario. They welcome burn survivors with open arms between the ages of 7-17. For almost 25 years, BUCKO creates a one week camp in the summer and fall. These camps give campers the opportunity to have an authentic camp experience that they normally would be fearful to have because of their scars.

Patrick Howlett, a professional firefighter and volunteer of the camp for over 10 years says they’ll never turn a camper down. “If a kid comes to the bus with the forms signed, we would never say no,” he says.

Camp BUCKO is a not for profit camp that survives solely on donations and volunteers to keep it going. It was first started when rehab specialists at a London, Ont., hospital took some patients out camping for the weekend with the permission of their parents. From there, it kept growing and is now what many know today as Camp BUCKO, a place for kids with similar struggles to grow and connect.

Campers do not pay to attend. Volunteers (45 to be exact) spend the whole year preparing for the one week that changes the lives of many burn survivors. A lot of campers return year after year and  eventually go on to become volunteers. BUCKO’s volunteers include firefighters, nurses, teachers, retirees and many more from a variety of occupations.

During the camp week, Camp BUCKO has the entire campsite exclusively for themselves. “This is very important to many campers,” says Howlett. “For some campers, it’s the only time they’ll feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit.”

Camp BUCKO provides a safe place for kids to be themselves for a week.  Campers don’t have to worry about hiding their scars. They can just have fun and be kids.

Campers enjoy such activities as canoeing, kayaking, hikeing, fishing, paddle boarding and many more fun progams. They can also have chat sessions if they choose as the camp encourages the development of leadership skills, and promotes self-esteem through recreational activities and therapeutic activities.

Camp is a place where kids get to take a break from school and enjoy the outdoors, make lifelong friendships, and a place where personal growth is encouraged. Because of Camp BUCKO, almost 70 kids each year who haven’t always had it easy get the opportunity to experience all camp has to offer.

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