Firefighters, EMS personnel step to plate to support Delaware Burn Camp

SEAFORD — Delmarva fire service and emergency service personnel are again stepping to the plate to help enhance the healing process for young burn victims.

Seventeen teams from Delaware and Maryland are battling it out this weekend at the Seaford Sports Complex in the Fire Fighters Softball Tournament benefitting Delaware Burn Camp, hosted by the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department.

At stake: a trophy.

“The trophy is a big deal,” said Seaford VFD Chief Jack Wilson. “They can brag about it for a year.”

Tournament play is set to conclude Sunday. The first games start at 9 a.m.
The event kicked off Friday evening with the Home Run Derby. More than a dozen sluggers forked out $25 apiece to swing for the fences in the derby slugfest, won by Corey Everage of the Little Creek Fire Company.

All tournament proceeds, including $300 team entry fees, go to support the Delaware Burn Camp, held every summer at Camp Barnes.
Delaware Burn Camp was established to provide a safe and natural environment for the promotion of physical and emotional healing to young victims of burn injury. Its mission is to assist young burn victims in their adjustment to injury through the provision of a safe, supportive environment and providing companionship through physical and social activities in a camp setting.

“It’s once a year, usually the week before the tournament here,” said Chief Wilson. “The kids have fun. The kids have the same type of injuries and they also get some psychological help. One of the things that the burn camp is trying to do right now is get children in the state that do have burn injuries familiar with the burn camp.”

Staffed by nurses, fire fighters, volunteers, professional and non-professional people from around the state, the camp features a variety of activities designed for fun, learning, and development of self-esteem. Activities are tailored to meet the physical and special needs of burn survivors. Among the activities: boating, fishing, swimming, movies, dancing, archery, hiking, horseback riding, arts and crafts, plus others.

Fire service also gets involved in activities during the burn camp week.
The camp is free of charge to any child between the ages of six to 18 that has sustained a serious burn injury. Money supporting the burn camp is raised through the fire service, private organizations and supportive community members.

There is no charge to the camper’s family, regardless of income. All camper costs are covered by the organization.
This year marks the 38th softball tournament, which now supports Delaware Burn Camp. Initially, proceeds supported the Crozier Chester Hospital near Philadelphia. Over time funds raised transitioned to the burn camp held at Camp Barnes.
It all began nearly four decades ago as a friendly competition among fire service neighbors.

Dunked!

“When it first started, Danny Short, Ronnie Marvel and all the guys at the Seaford fire station decided they were going to have a softball tournament between the neighboring departments – Bridgeville, Laurel, Blades and Georgetown …,” Chief Wilson said. “It was small. Then in late 80s and early 90s, at one time they had it up to 35 teams all up and down the state. It was known as the state volunteer firemen’s association’s unofficial tournament.

At that time, they were giving money to the burn foundation at Crozier Chester Hospital.”
With the burn camp based in southeastern Sussex County, progressively funding from the softball tournament transitioned back to the local needs in the community,

“And the burn camp was the perfect fit for it,” said Chief Wilson.
Once for fire fighters exclusively, the tournament widened its eligibility draw several years ago to include police, paramedics and other emergency-related personnel.

“Some of our numbers have dwindled over the years,” said Chief Wilson. “We changed it from a strictly all fire department tournament to an emergency services tournament about two years ago.”
Saturday, the Laurel Fire Department team paid special memorial tribute in remembrance of Clifford “Biff” Lee and Ronnie Lee, both longtime tournament participants. Jerseys with Mr. Lee’s number 1 and Mr. Scott’s number 39 were presented to family members.

“These guys played for years,” said Laurel Fire Department member Steve Brittingham. “When I started, I was with them. They hollered at me. We laughed. We had fun. We had a lot of good times with them. And any time we are out here, I feel like they are right with us.”

In addition, a dunking booth served as a fundraiser for scholarships established in memory of Sussex County EMS paramedic Stephanie Callaway, who was killed in the line of duty in a traffic accident involving an ambulance on June 17, 2008.

“We give two scholarships a year out, to one adult learner and one child going into to pursue a career in EMS,” said Stephanie Davis of the Sussex County Paramedic Association. “Stephanie was a big proponent of education, so we try to continue her memory.”

Some teams are literally happy campers with overnight camping at the city-owned sports complex.
“Camping is a big deal. I think this is almost like our state fire convention,” said Chief Wilson. “The city allows us to put the campers, with some rules. You know they are going to have some fun out there, so they have some stuff you have to abide by.”

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