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Burn survivors find special place

Kids can expect all of their favorite summertime activities at Camp Eyabsut. There’s hiking and swimming. There’s a rock wall to climb. And arts and crafts projects to tinker with. But this camp, which takes place each July in North Bend, Wash., is special: All of the campers are burn survivors. “We do a lot of team building,” says camp manager Rosemary Owens-Lieske. “They are building a network of support for themselves.”

Camp Eyabsut, which is organized by the Northwest Burn Foundation, is one of several summer camps for children with special needs. There are also camps in this area for kids with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, developmental disabilities and other medical concerns.

Camp Eyabsut has been operating for the last 12 years. It draws children from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska.

Quite a few campers come from eastern Washington and Idaho, Owens-Lieske says.

Firefighters serve as volunteer counselors at the camp, and airlines and other transportation services help provide ways for kids to get to the campsite.

“It’s amazing, they want to do so much for us,” she says.

Camp Eyabsut is also special because the entire experience — travel, food and lodging — is provided for just $25.

Some campers are still undergoing treatment for their burns, such as wearing compression bandages. But many more are wrestling with “a lot of psycho-social stuff” that comes along with their scars, Owens-Lieske says

Some children start out the week too embarrassed to swim without being covered up, but as the days go by, and they see other kids like them, the shyness fades.

“Camp makes me feel like I belong and fit in,” one camper says on the foundation’s Web site.