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Shelby firefighters to raise funds for burn camp

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 10, 2020

 A camper climbs a rock wall at the Great Lakes Burn Camp. The Great Lakes Burn Camp helps kids ages 6-17 meet and support each other as burn survivors.

A camper climbs a rock wall at the Great Lakes Burn Camp. The Great Lakes Burn Camp helps kids ages 6-17 meet and support each other as burn survivors.

Photo provided by Frank Pierce

 A girl who survived a tragic event visits with a dog  during the camp.

A girl who survived a tragic event visits with a dog during the camp.

Photo provided by Frank Pierce

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Shelby Township’s firefighters are inviting the public to come out and join them for a night of fun and dancing to raise money for charity.

The Great Lakes Burn Camp and the firefighters will be hosting their 30th annual Red Hot Night Dinner Dance Feb. 15 at the Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township. The event will begin at 6 p.m. and last until midnight to raise money for the Great Lakes Burn Camp.

The Great Lakes Burn Camp helps kids ages 6-17 meet and support each other as burn survivors. The camp runs in the winter in Onaway, Michigan, at the UAW Family Education Conference Center, and in the summer in Kalamazoo at Pretty Lake Vacation Camp. There is no charge for the campers to participate.

The camp has fun activities like crafts, fishing and sledding. The Michigan State Police come out with their police dogs, and there is a dance on the last day where the children hold each other’s hands and come together. It is a way for them to feel the comfort of others who have faced what they did.

Red Hot Night will include dinner, an open bar, dancing, a raffle and many door prizes.

Frank Pierce, the EMS coordinator at the Shelby Township Fire Department, said he is always surprised by the generosity of those who attend the fundraiser.

“Each year, I am in awe of the generosity of our supporters who contribute to the Great Lakes Burn Camp at the Shelby Township Firefighters Local 1338 Red Hot Night. Attendance may have been slightly down last year, but I believe that the event raised approximately $30,000 for the camp. That amazing feat rests on the shoulders of the individuals that plan year-round to ensure that each year is even more special,” he said.

Pierce said that over the years the event has grown to what it is today, and more surprises are ahead.

“Lt. Jeremy Verbeke has been in charge of this event for more years than I can count. When he took over, the event was great, but over the years he turned a fundraiser into the event of the year. People talk about what great prizes and raffles there are, and the topic of conversation always turns to, ‘What is he going to come up with for next year to top what he has already done?’ This year is going to be really special, because it is the 30th annual Red Hot Night and I am sure that he has something amazing up his sleeve,” he said.

He said some of the firefighters have stepped up and made the event even more interesting.

“What I find even more impressive is that one of our firefighters, James Brown, has decided to step up and learn what it takes to put on an event of this caliber. James is responsible for … taking the idea of a ‘cooler of cheer’ to the next level. Last year, he purchased a Yeti cooler and filled it with adult beverages that our firefighters generously donated. We had two decks of playing cards, where individual cards could be purchased to win the cooler. We were not sure how well they would sell, but we were pleasantly surprised that they sold out within minutes of the event starting,” said Pierce.

In 2019, the event raised over $32,000 for the Great Lakes Burn Camp. The firefighters’ goal this year is $40,000.

Since 1991, the event has raised more than $400,000, all of it going to burn survivor charities.

Pierce said he is happy to see the generosity of those who donated do so much for those who have faced a tragedy.

“People absolutely amaze me with their generosity. It is very difficult not to get emotional when I think about how that generosity impacts the lives of the campers. These kids’ lives are often changed by their experiences at camp. Many were shy about showing their scars before coming to camp, and in just a few days after arriving, they are in swimsuits without a care in the world. It is very humbling to see,” said Pierce.

Tickets for the event cost $85 per person. Checks can be made out to the Shelby Township Firefighters Local 1338 charity fund. The Palazzo Grande is located at 54660 Van Dyke Ave.

For more information, to buy tickets or to make a donation, visit eventbrite.com and search “Red Hot Night,” visit greatlakesburncamp.org, or stop by Fire Station No. 1 during normal business hours.