Baton Rouge, La., Local 995 Business Manager Jason Dedon (center) donated the proceeds of the local’s annual golf tournament to Baton Rouge General CEO Edgardo Tenreiro (left) and staff.  

Baton Rouge, La., Local 995 donated $15,000 to send children to Camp I’m Still Me, a traditional summer camp in Texas for children that have suffered burn injuries.

Before Local 995 began its donations, only five or six children from Baton Rouge were able to attend the camp. This year, there were nearly 30. The program is designed to help the children recover from emotional as well as physical scars.

On Aug. 15, Local 995 Business Manager Jason Dedon presented the check to Baton Rouge General’s CEO Edgardo Tenreiro and burn center medical director Dr. Tracee Short. In 10 years, Local 995 has donated nearly $140,000 to the cause.

 “The IBEW’s generous donations give children with burn injuries the opportunity to enjoy summer camp with others who have similar experiences,” said Tenreiro. “We are grateful for their longtime support of our Regional Burn Center."

For one week, children who want to run, swim and play but are often stopped by shame, fear and medical complications, are set free to be kids under the careful supervision of specially trained counselors, nurses and doctors.

“Physical recovery is only part of these kids’ journey and this camp is about healing their hearts and their souls,” Dedon said. “They don’t have to explain, hide or be ashamed of their burns. They can take their shirt off and go swimming and not be judged. One week a year, they get to be kids.”

There is no cost to the kids or their families, but providing the care the campers need runs nearly $1,000 per child for just a week, Dedon said. Few of the burn victims could afford it in any case Dedon said, since most burn victims, both nationally and in the Texas-Louisiana border area served by the camp, come from poor families.

“They tend to be unsupervised longer while parents are out working multiple jobs,” Dedon said. “So not only are poor kids more likely to get hurt, they are less likely to have the resources they need to get better.”

The proceeds came from the local’s annual golf tournament, a weekend long contest between members, signatory contractors and friends.

For years, the Local 995 golf tournament was a low-key event and the money raised went to a fund to buy 50-year watches for members and retirees. When a new source of money was dedicated to the watches, the membership still wanted to hold the event. They just needed to find a new beneficiary.

One of Local 995’s signatory contractors, who always came for the tournament, suggested a donation to Baton Rouge General’s regional burn center, one of the nation’s oldest and most decorated burn wards.

The leadership of the burn center suggested using the annual contribution to send burn patients to the camp, Dedon said. For years they had wanted to send their patients, but they lacked a sustaining donor. Hospital officials said that if they could get a commitment from Local 995, they would be able to match it with support from foundations and other donors.

Dedon said the membership was easily sold on the idea.

“Burns are one of the fears of our industry. It hits close to home. You throw children into the mix, if it doesn’t pull you your heartstrings, you have no soul,” Dedon said. “It was a very easy decision. It didn’t take much prodding for people to buy in.”

When the first donation arrived in 2007, only five or six kids out of 50 at Camp I’m Still Me came from Baton Rouge. This past summer it was nearly 30.

One day each session, members of Local 995 drive out to meet the campers they help support. They stay all day and host a dinner that night.

“Sometimes you give money and all you can do is assume it is helping. Not here,” Dedon said. “You can look at that one kid and say, ‘I am doing this for you.’ Nothing beats it.”

More information about Camp I’m Still Me can be found on their website. Donations can be made directly to the Percy R. Johnson Burn Foundation.