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B.C. camp helped teen left with burns on 55% of her body after boat accident

The Hometown Heroes Lottery supports the B.C. Burn Fund and its annual week-long camp
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Whitney Burnand was in a freak accident in 1993 when she was five years old when the boat she was on in Ladysmith harbour exploded. Burnand was left with burns on 55 per cent of her body. (Whitney Burnand/Contributed to Black Press Media)

Whitney Burnand first went to the B.C. Burn Camp when she was 13 years old – about eight years after being in a “total freak accident” that left her with burns on more than half of her body.

It was after first time attending that week-long camp that Burnand said she didn’t realize what she was missing out on.

“I think it would have really helped, especially before my teen years, to give me a different level of confidence and just make me feel more proud to be a survivor versus that kind of ‘why me’ mentality,” said the Vancouver resident.

Burnand is one hundreds of children who have attended the burn camp since it was founded in 1994. It allows burn survivors to be themselves and connect with other kids and camp counsellors in a safe and inclusive environment.

It’s supported by the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund, which in partnership with the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, has launched the 2024 Hometown Heroes Lottery.

Lottery ticket sales support services at VGH and UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehab Centre, and Vancouver Community Health Services and burn fund such as the Home Away program, mental health support services, and the annual burn camp for young survivors.

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Whitney Burnand was in a freak accident in 1993 when she was five years old when the boat she was on in Ladysmith harbour exploded. Burnand was left with burns on 55 per cent of her body. (Whitney Burnand/Contributed to Black Press Media)

Burnand, who attended the camp for six years, said it was a place where you’re accepted and you’re not different, and everybody else has scars like you do so you don’t need to feel self conscious about them.

In 1993 when Burnand, who grew up in Nanaimo, was five years old, she and her dad, step-mom, younger brother and some friends were heading for a Gulf Islands boating trip. The group stopped in Ladysmith harbour to pick up another person.

As they were getting ready to leave the harbour, one of the friends went to start the boat and it “exploded out of nowhere,” she said.

“Some people were very badly injured and some people weren’t injured at all, which is a miracle.”

Burnand, however, was standing right on top of the engine compartment when the boat exploded. A friend of her step-mom’s noticed someone – Burnand – was missing and jumped back on to the engulfed boat to rescue her.

Burnand and her brother were rushed to Nanaimo General Hospital, and from there they were airlifted to BC Children’s Hospital. While Burnand had burns to 55 per cent of her body, her brother wasn’t as badly burned.

She said her mom, who had driven to the Nanaimo hospital, was told to say her goodbyes to Burnand in case she didn’t make it.

“They put me into a drug-induced coma because I was so badly injured, and they needed to stabilize me and do lots of surgeries and skin grafts. My mom said my skin that was burned so badly it looked like ground up hamburger meat.”

Burnand spent two months recovering on the Lower Mainland, with one month at children’s hospital and another at Vancouver General Hospital before going back to Nanaimo hospital for rehabilitation.

“I had to learn how to walk again. I didn’t talk for a little while because my lungs were quite damaged from the smoke and the flames and then I was also intubated for a month being in a coma. So everything was very delicate.”

Burnand said her mom was made aware of the burn camp after the accident.

“She asked me all the time if I wanted to go and I didn’t want the thought of going to a camp for multiple nights and multiple days away from my family.”

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Whitney Burnand was in a freak accident in 1993 when she was five years old when the boat she was on in Ladysmith harbour exploded. Burnand was left with burns on 55 per cent of her body. (Whitney Burnand/Contributed to Black Press Media)

Her friends and family became her security blanket, and going anywhere without them felt “really scary and daunting to me at the time.”

Then one year, when she was 13, she knew another girl who was going and decided to finally attend.

“I wish I would have gone before. I mean, no regrets or anything, but I did not know what I was missing.”

Burnand continued to attend the camp for several years and ended up volunteering as a camp counsellor.

Hometown Heroes Lottery tickets are now on sale, ranging in price from a three-pack for $75, seven-pack for $129, 21-pack for $300 and 40-pack for $500.

There are 50 early bird prizes worth more than $170,000. One early bird winner will have the option of choosing a 2024 Tesla Model Y and 2024 Kia Niro Electric Vehicle (EV) Wave or 10 years of vacations plus $20,000 spending money, or $125,000 cash.

Tickets are available until midnight July 11 or until sold out.

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