Wrapping up our Skills and Moving On at UBelong

While today is the last day of UBelong programming, we know that the impacts for each of us will go on and on.  We wrapped up by reinforcing the skills from earlier in the workshop (our confidence through STEPS, Rehearse Your Responses tools, and bullying prevention tools).  Everyone got a chance to say out lout how important it is to be understood and  make new friends.

Our program closing ceremony included previewing the video we’ve been working hard at, as well as a ritual that reminds us all of how we are all important parts of the survivor community.  We may be leaving Providence tomorrow, but we will all take the lessons and support with us!

UBelong Participants Learn that Bullying is Never OK

What a day at UBelong!  We experienced a large group lesson from bullying expert, Katy Pearson, complete with a skit and small group breakout sessions to reinforce this important content.

Today we learned the at bullying is never okay, and that both the target and the bystander in bullying situations can do something to change things.  Practicing these things helped us understand how to respond in a bullying situation.

Mentors from the Young Adult Workshop visited each small group to share their stories.  Hearing how they felt when they were the same age as UBelong participants helped to give perspective and inspiration.

Everyone was very excited to keep working on our video, expressing ourselves in even deeper levels.  Stay tuned for the exciting reveal of this video where participants tell everyone what they ” want you to know!”

UBelong Participants Experience Expressive Art!

Peace Love Studios helped kick off UBelong programming with Expressive Art!

Our two oldest small groups got to actually travel to the Peace Love Studios to work on their masterpieces! The two younger small groups enjoyed a visit from Peace Love staff here at the Convention Center.  Everyone had a chance to “express themselves” individually and be a part of something much bigger, too – a piece of group artwork!

We’re all very excited to have started work on our own UBelong video, which is also all about expressing ourselves.  In it, everyone at UBelong has a chance to tell you what they “want you to know”.  Through this week, we’ll talk a lot about being BRAVE, and today’s video content sure started to show off how brave all these UBelong participants really are!

Kids in Childcare Enjoy the WBC Experience, Too!

The smallest survivors and family members got a taste of belonging and fun today, too!  Our childcare participants, ages infant through 6 years old, enjoyed getting to know new friends and supportive caregivers.  They got to explore a lot of games, active play, and more.

Our UBelong staff also brought components of therapeutic programming to the kids.  Today, childcare participants got to do a self-portrait (with help for the littlest ones), and describe how each part of themselves was useful, valuable, beautiful, and special.  This helps with healthy self-image and talking about how we are all different and the same.  As every member of the family is impacted by burn survivorship, so too, does the Phoenix Society support and meet everyone where they are at.

UBelong Participants – Come Get to Know Us!

UBelong participants, Express Yourselves!  The theme of this year is all about expressing who you are and what you think.  Each person’s unique qualities, views, and strengths are here to be celebrated!  Come and get to know your new friends at the UBelong table tonight at the kickoff event.  Staff will have group and individual activities ready to help everyone meet new friends and feel comfortable and get ready to express yourself!  Come find us by the Rotunda.

Family Finds Support in UBelong Program at World Burn Congress

In August of 2010, Domenic Vinacco was your average teenager, watching online video stunts with his teenage friends. The group decided to reenact an online video that included a Super Soaker water gun filled with gasoline, a match, and enough fumes to cause Domenic’s shirt to ignite. In an instant, his world—and that of the Vinacco family—changed.

Suffering burns to almost 50 percent of his body from head to toe, the 14-year-old spent the next 2 months in the hospital undergoing the challenging physical recovery that accompanies a burn injury.


Domenic with his sister, Rachael

But the family’s journey had just begun. Still reeling from the accident, the Vinaccos struggled to cope with the ongoing emotional toll.

“I could see after everything happened that everyone just kind of shut down and didn’t talk about anything, especially Domenic,” recalls older Rachael, 19.

Seeking the support and resources to deal with the many unanswered questions and struggles that face a young burn survivor and family after hospital discharge, the Vinaccos attended a Burn Awareness Walk in Boston in June 2011. It was there that they crossed paths with Phil Tammaro, a fellow burn survivor and firefighter, who also serves as a Phoenix Society advocate.

“I started talking with him about the information in Burn Support News, about the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress, what it was, and if he thought we would benefit from it,” says Domenic’s mother, Barbara. After Phil’s pitch, the Vinaccos were sold.

In September, Domenic, Barbara, and his father, Richard, attended the World Burn Congress in Cincinnati, Ohio. With the goal of meeting survivors and families that had been in similar circumstances, the Vinaccos almost immediately found what they had been looking for.

“From the minute we got off the plane, till we got back on, it was so well run, so well organized,” says Barbara. “Every minute we were there, we felt
surrounded by people who had been through similar experiences.

“Knowing there were other people out there, I just think it was helpful to know and see how they have moved on, and how they got through certain things, and learning about additional resources for burn survivors and their families. Every second we were absorbing information, and making contacts with other families. We also met a family that had a son Domenic’s age, and got connected with them, along with others each day.

One resource was tailored specifically to Domenic’s need for peer support. UBelong, a program within the Congress, is designed to positively inspire and support children and teens, ages 7 to 17, using a mix of fun, social skill building, and peer group interactions.

Initially apprehensive about the thought of interacting with other burn survivors his age, including sharing his story, Domenic “dragged his feet” going into it. “On a scale of 0-10, he said 2 or 3 after the first day,” recalls Barbara. “The next day, it was a 10.”

“I didn’t know anyone at first, but I started to make some friends so it got a lot better,” explains Domenic, who turned 16 in April. “I found it was a lot easier talking to people who had been through a similar experience.”

The almost immediate growth that he made socially was noticeable by more than just the family. A UBelong staff member made sure to seek out Barbara and Richard at the event to alert them of their son’s progress.

Domenic believes it was the peer support and learning to communicate his story to others that made his experience so successful. The lessons learned, he said, have been effective in everyday life.

“When people were sharing their stories, I found that it gave me tips on how to respond when people ask you what happened, and how to respond without getting nervous or anything like that,” says Domenic, who has used the those tips when returning to school or going out in public. “It’s easier to explain what happened now that I went there.”

Although she was unable to attend the Congress, Rachael, who was away at college, agrees that the experience helped her brother. But she has also noticed
the impact on the family as a whole.

“After learning these tools and resources, communication is definitely what they learned, including being able to talk to everyone and family,” she says. “And Domenic’s more open—there’s more of a confidence.”

In 2012, Barbara Vinacco was asked to speak before a group in Providence, Rhode Island, in support of the Phoenix Society. The city will host World Burn Congress in 2013 and the Vinacco family is actively involved volunteering their time planning for the event.

“I just talked about the compassion, the camaraderie, and how we felt that the whole time we were at the Congress we were surrounded by people who have been through similar circumstances,” says Barbara, “and how that has helped us move forward.”

Thank You to All of Our Volunteers!

WBC volunteers assisting with registration

WBC volunteers assisting with registration

It is with deep appreciation that we are celebrating over 1,100 volunteers at the Phoenix Society as part of National Volunteer Week (April 21-27th).  Our volunteers are those everyday people who do extraordinary things for us, and include burn survivors, family members, firefighters, healthcare professionals and people in the local communities.

Since our organization’s founding, volunteers have been a source of action, contribution and moving the cause of burn awareness and improved burn care forward.  You, our volunteers, are critically important to burn survivors and their families, because you make the programs at the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors possible.  For those interested in volunteering for the Phoenix Society, additional information may be found at http://www.phoenix-society.org/waystogive/volunteer

What do our volunteers do and how do they support the Phoenix Society?  For starters, our volunteers fulfill some of our most fundamental roles in the programs we offer to support burn survivors and their families on the road to recovery.

–          SOAR Volunteers:  Over 900 volunteers serve our peer support program, SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery).  These volunteers are comprised of coordinators, trainers, and peer supporters, and deliver the transforming power of peer support for hospitalized burn survivors and their families, which is essential to complete recovery.  More professionals than ever are recognizing the impact of “talking to someone who has been there”.  Peer support volunteers help others to thrive again!

–          Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress:  Over 250 volunteers come together to support our annual conference..  This life-changing event is touched by volunteers who may be participating in a Phoenix Society program for the first time and others that have returned year after year to participate in our conference.  Volunteer roles at World Burn Congress:

  • Committees – a team of volunteers who work behind the scenes to coordinate all of the functions that produce Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress.  This group coordinates everything from program sessions, media, hospitality / food, entertainment, transportation, silent auction, and the volunteer staff.
  • “AV Seals” – a team of volunteers who organize and run all of the AV, lighting, and equipment for the entire conference.
  • UBelong – a compassionate and caring group of burn care professionals, family members and burn survivors who volunteer to create a memorable experience for families, kids and young adults by delivering a session full of fun, social skill building and peer group interaction.
  • General Support – “Many hands make light work”; and we need the many hands to distribute t-shirts, transport attendees, move boxes, run registration and all the other behind the scenes work to make the event run smoothly.

–          Phoenix Society Advocates: Our advocate volunteers are those individuals committed to influencing positive changes in their lives, their communities and in their selected governments by sharing their story.  They become that “voice” for burn survivors and families, to support national prevention initiatives.

–          General Phoenix Society support:  We continue to receive behind the scenes support for our organization through such terrific volunteers that help with general tasks such as preparing mailings, stuffing envelopes, or offering their specialized services such as writing and consulting. All the volunteers out there sharing Phoenix Society information, programs and resources to those who need to find it most.

–          Phoenix Society Board of Directors:  Our board is comprised of skilled volunteers with a vested interest in the burn community.  The Directors volunteer their time and contribute their skills and knowledge to assist and oversee the operations of the Phoenix Society.  The board includes survivors, family members of those with burn injuries, and many industry and corporation experts.

SOAR peer supporter volunteers attend a training session

SOAR peer supporter volunteers attend a training session

35 years of providing services and  helping burn survivors everywhere get back to living -Phoenix Society continues to be a small staff with an inspiring base of volunteers across the country, whose enormous energy and commitment continue to support or efforts to ensure everyone affected by burn injury has the tools and resources they need to thrive again!

Phoenix Society would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the individuals, organizations and supporters of the work we do.  Together, we can make these programs and resources available for anyone who is suffering from the affects of burn injury.

“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.  Thank you.”  ~Author Unknown

Interested in volunteering? Go to our volunteer page on our website for more information!