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Fire Department funds self-esteem

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published January 27, 2016


SOUTHFIELD — Growing up can be tough enough, but for burn-injured children, growing up can be exceptionally tough.

At Great Lakes Burn Camp, though, burn-injured children can feel comfortable, according to camp director and retired firefighter Mike Longenecker.

Southfield Fire Fighters Association members made it their mission to make sure burn-injured children keep feeling accepted by donating $10,000 to the camp recently.

Members of the SFFA met with Longenecker Jan. 19 at Fire Station No. 5, on Lahser Road, to make the donation.

Longenecker said the camp, located at Pretty Lake Camp in Mattawan, is free for children ages 6-17. The only requirement of campers is that they have been to a burn unit.

“Camp is really important for social well-being and self-esteem — so it’s amazing the difference we see in the kids after they’ve been to camp,” Longenecker said.

Since GLBC is free, keeping it up and running depends heavily on volunteers and donations, Longenecker said.

According to firefighter/paramedic Scott Rickard, the SFFA has its own charitable arm called the Southfield Firefighters Charities, which raises funds for several causes, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, among others.

The donation made recently was raised through a golf outing in September organized by Rickard and firefighter/paramedic Jeremy Savickas.

“We do a couple of different events every year, but our biggest event is the golf outing that happened back in September,” Rickard said. “We raised $11,000, and we’re donating that money to the Great Lakes Burn Camp.”

Savickas said local firefighters from surrounding communities have been participating in the golf outing for 15 years.

“It’s always a lot of fun and very enjoyable time for us in the Southfield Fire Department to be part of something like that. A lot of the people are firefighters or retired firefighters, and a lot are from the other departments in Oakland County,” he said.

Acting Chief Barry White said making a donation to the camp is a natural choice, as the Fire Department deals with burn-injured victims regularly.

Although it may seem like the majority of burn-injured children suffer injuries from fires, Longenecker said a majority of the children are actually victims of abuse.

“We see water scalding burns, abuse situations, neglect — we see the gamut of different types of burns here in the fire services, so it’s a great way for us to partner,” White said. “Some of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with personally is burned children.”

Former Chief Peter Healy said he decided to volunteer at the camp after retiring from the Southfield Fire Department after 37 years of service.

At first, Healy said, he was nervous about working at the camp, but now he runs the archery program.

Longenecker said some children at the camp can have up to 95 percent of their skin burned.

“If there is any talk about the scars, it’s between the kids. We don’t say anything about it,” Healy said. “We don’t talk to them about how they get burned, but the kids kind of do their own counseling and come to realize they’re not the only one who is burned.”

Longenecker said going to camp helps the children in deep ways.

“They get more confidence about themselves, because when they’re at camp, nobody is staring at them, pointing at them or making fun of them,” Longenecker said. “If they can’t cover up their scars, they feel like they’re being stared at. They come to camp and nobody cares, so it’s huge for that self-esteem part.”

The next golf outing will be held in May, renamed the Chief Keith T. Rowley Memorial Golf Outing for the former chief who died in July.

For more information on Great Lakes Burn Camp, visit