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!

WBC 2013 Volunteers – We Thank You!

Phoenix Society volunteers give with their hearts and offer the many hands needed to make World Burn Congress an inspiring and healing week for all in attendance. Many give countless hours on top of their busy work and home lives to quietly work behind the scenes and make it all happen. We honor and value their contributions and would like to extend our deepest thanks for all they do.

“Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch” – Tyler Hawkins


Whether you are a volunteer that has given an hour or worked with us for years, rest assured that the lives you touch are many and the gifts you give are great. We welcome your continued involvement in this amazing community.

With Heartfelt Gratitude,

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors

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!”

Chris Gilyard Describes her Journey – “Walking Through Ashes”

Chris Gilyard, featured speaker at today’s World Burn Congress general session, uses the words “Walking Through the Ashes” to describe her burn injury experience and her journey through years of recovery.  Thirty five years ago, burned in an auto accident at the age of 17, she suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 21% of her body, with her face having some of the deepest burns.ChrisBlogpic

Chris explained that, although the physical pain and recovery in the burn center was intense, the emotional healing from her injuries was equally devastating.  She described how, upon first seeing her reflection in the mirror, she thought ” I don’t look like a girl anymore…..who is ever going to love me?”

Upon being discharged from the security of the burn center, Chris explained, she had no support groups, websites, camps, school or social reentry, or social skills training available. They simply weren’t available at that time.  She experienced the humiliation and pain of pointing, laughing, inappropriate questions, and hurtful comments.  And although her family was loving and highly supportive, they did not have the skills or resources to handle the difficulties of going out in public and responding to the reactions of others.

Chris stated, ” I felt so alone”.

Chris compared the available resources and assistance she had during her journey, and what she wouldn’t have done to have the resources that are offered by the Phoenix Society today, such as SOAR, for a peer supporter who has “been there” like she had; for social reentry skills, such as the Phoenix Society’s “Beyond Surviving:Tools for Thriving”, to help with going out in public; and for a school reentry program such as Phoenix Society’s Journey Back, to help with the challenges of returning to school.  Although she didn’t have these tools, Chris did rely upon the support of family, friends and therapy on her journey to recovery.

She described the breadth of her journey, including a pivotal point where another family member experienced a severe burn injury, and how this motivated her to pay it forward by becoming a Burn Support Representative at Regions Hospital Burn Center, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She stated she learned  “the journey is much easier to do with someone by your side.”

Today, Chris is married with 2 sons and works in private practice as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist in Minnesota, offering caring and healing for those struggling with burn and other types of trauma.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors continues to be the central hub for resources for everyone affected by burn injury, offering peer support – SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery), online learning courses, online support chat services, the Journey Back resource for school reentry, and many other educational tools and resources so that burn survivors and their families can live productive and fulfilling lives.  No one has to travel the road of recovery alone.  More information is available for these resources at http://www.phoenix-society.org.

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!

Parent Workshop Addresses the Needs of the Entire Family after Burn Injury

The parent workshop was held today for parents coping with burn survivorship within the family. The workshop provided information, perspectives, expert advice and open discussion for the attendees. Aimed at both parents of child/teen survivors as well as parents who are themselves burn survivors, this workshop addressed the impact that burn injury has on children, teens and family.

Parents had the opportunity to explore what their family had experienced and gained useful information and tools to manage the future.

A facilitated support group follows this session to allow for further discussion. The parent support group addresses aspects such as guilt and children’s behavior challenges. Hearing that you are not alone, connecting with each other, and learning about recovery helps parents prepare for the next stages of their family journey.

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.

Opening Ceremonies

Phoenix Society’s 2013 World Burn Congress has officially opened!  Opening ceremonies were conducted this morning as an official start to this international gathering of burn survivors, family members, fire service, healthcare professionals and others focused on the need of long-term recovery services.

A stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" opens the Phoenix Society's 25th Annual World Burn Congress

A stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” opens the Phoenix Society’s 25th Annual World Burn Congress

A special thanks to the Providence Fire Department, the Fire Service Color Guard led by the West Warwick Fire Department, the Rhode Island Professional Fire Fighters Pipes & Drums, and other fire service members and emergency first responders who provide their service, honor, and pride to the burn survivor community!

Welcome attendees to Phoenix Society’s 25th Annual World Burn Congress in Providence, Rhode Island!

World Burn Congress Begins with Walk of Remembrance

The Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress conference began with a “Walk of Remembrance” from the Omni Providence Hotel to the Rhode Island State House –  honoring those who have died from their burn injuries and offering a time to remember our own losses related to burn injuries.


Firefighters and Volunteers lined the walk route, escorting attendees on this symbolic opening of the 25th Annual World Burn Congress. Gathered at the State House, Rhode Island Governor, Lincoln Chafee, Former Rhode Island Governor, Donald Carcieri, Steven M. Pare, Commissioner of Public Safety, Paul Doughty, President IAFF Local 799, Gina Russo, President of Station Fire Memorial Foundation – Survivor, Dr. David Harrington, Medical Director of Rhode Island Hospital Burn Center, Jim Shannon, President National Fire Protection Association, and Amy Acton, Executive Director, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors addressed the walk participants, and spoke to remind the public at-large that burn care and prevention is critical.

A special guest speaker, Adherbal Ferreira, President Association of Victims of Santa Maria Fire Brazil, also spoke to the crowd.  Phoenix Society was introduced to Mr. Ferreira during a visit to Brazil soon after the tragic 2013 Santa Maria nightclub fire in Brazil, where Mr. Ferreira’s daughter had died.    Phoenix Society saw the unique opportunity to invite the representatives from Brazil to World Burn Congress and to add their voices to the important issue of fire prevention.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors continues to be a central hub of information, resources and programming across North America, and more recently, internationally.  As part of the burn community, we believe by promoting life safety codes we will prevent needless loss of life and burn injuries that affect families and communities across America and internationally.

Catch some of the memorable moments of the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress “Walk of Remembrance” – view the slideshow below.

Phoenix Society's members and special guests carry the Walk of Remembrance banner

Phoenix Society’s members and special guests carry the Walk of Remembrance banner

Local Fire Departments join to provide pipe and drum escorts to burn survivors, family members and other attendees of WBC 2013

Local Fire Departments join to provide pipe and drum escorts to burn survivors, family members and other attendees of WBC 2013

Burn survivors, their families, fire services, caregivers and others join together to participate in the Walk of Remembrance

Burn survivors, their families, fire fighters, caregivers and others join together to participate in the Walk of Remembrance

Approaching the Rhode Island State House

Approaching the Rhode Island State House

Addressing the crowd at the Rhode Island State House

Addressing the crowd at the Rhode Island State House

A moment of silence - honoring those that have died from burn injuries and remembering our own losses related to burn injuries

A moment of silence – honoring those that have died from burn injuries and remembering our own losses related to burn injuries


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.