By Suzanne Schmidt
Children scarred by a fire can take a long time to heal emotionally and physically.
At Camp Hopetake, kids who have been seriously burned go to this safe and supportive environment where they can share their feelings and interact with other seriously burned kids. This year the camp is struggling to raise funds so the GFWC New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club has stepped up to help.
The club will donate money raised from its 13th Annual Night of 5000, a black tie optional gala, at 6 p.m. March 20 at the Ritz Ybor, 1503 East 7th Ave. in Ybor City.
Heather Keen, president of the club, said the club chose the camp because it is a good charity.
“One reason why we chose the camp is because they are a local organization,” Keen said. “This is truly a home-grown project. With the economy down, it is harder and harder to get sponsorship dollars. We are hoping the money we raise will impact them.”
Tampa Fire Fighters Local 754 works in conjunction with the Tampa General Hospital’s burn unit to provide the camp for 40 children between the ages of five and 17. The camp started about 20 years ago.
“At the camp all the kids require so much more care than at a traditional camp,” Keen said. “It is a self-esteem builder where the kids can just go and have fun with other kids going through the same thing.”
Jace Kohan is not only a captain for the Tampa Fire Rescue; he also is the president of the Tampa Fire Fighter Charity Fund.
“We are so thankful the woman’s club is helping us out,” Kohan said. “The camp is completely run on donations and this year donations are down.”
Children invited to the camp will stay at a dormitory at the University of South Florida June 13-19. Throughout the week, children will go to places like Busch Gardens, Adventure Island and Disney World and also do activities like going bowling and swimming. For more information or to donate to the camp, visit www.tampafirefighters.com and look under the community service heading or call (813) 229-7540.
“Many of the kids were rescued from burning homes and were treated by paramedics or nurses at Tampa General,” Kohan said. “It is very rewarding for the fire fighter and paramedic volunteers to be able to help them with their physical and emotional scars. Some of the kids take a long time to heal and as fire fighters we understand what it is like.”
The event will kick off with a cocktail hour featuring live jazz entertainment, a cigar roller, cash bar and a silent auction. After the cocktail hour, guests will be ushered into the ballroom to enjoy entertainment by the Collective Soles Arts Group directed by Troy Jansen and Synchronicity.
“It is a great band,” Keen said. “I think they will be able to keep people on their feet. They play great dance music and covers. It is also a great event to attend because each person will have a chance to win $5,000.”
The woman’s club raises funds for various charities throughout the year including OASIS, Joshua House, A Kids Place and The Spring of Tampa Bay.
“It is a great way to be able to give back to a bunch of different organizations,” Keen said. “It keeps me going when I see the smiles on the kids faces for all the different projects we do.”
Aleisha Linck, of New Tampa, has been a member of the club for one year. She said she joined because she likes the volunteer opportunities and the camaraderie.
“We get to give back to the community,” Linck said. “Since I joined I have made so many amazing friends. It has been a blast. I am constantly recruiting.”
The club accepts new members all year-round from the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel area.
Tickets for the gala are $100 per person. Sponsorship opportunities are still available as well. For more information, visit www.ntjwc.com.
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