Phoenix Education Grant Recipient Pursuing Her Career in Physical Therapy

Rachel Anderson

Focus: Physical Therapy

Rachel’s experience overcoming adversity inspired her to pursue a career helping others do the same.

Rachel Anderson, burn survivor and PEG Scholarship recipient is focused on helping others overcome adversity.

Rachel Anderson, burn survivor and PEG Scholarship recipient is focused on helping others overcome adversity.

She received an educational grant from the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. AlloSource pledged an annual contribution to the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors over 10 years to provide education grants for students like Rachel. She is a freshman at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. When she graduates from the rigorous six-year program, she will have a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.


This degree will allow me to help those who are going through the same thing I did,” she said. “In my future, I want help kids who need physical therapy. My life goal is to be a role model and show others that nothing can stop you.”

While in high school, Rachel excelled on and off the field. She graduated with a strong academic record and served as the captain of her high school’s lacrosse and cross-country teams.

In addition to being named Most Courageous Athlete and Most Courageous Runner, Rachel made the Athletic Director’s All-Academic Team and All-Scholastic Team.

Rachel also focused much of her energy on community service. She participated in mission trips, volunteered in soup kitchens, and did volunteer work at the Ephrata Community Hospital and Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center.

My burn injury has shaped me in many ways,” Rachel said. “I believe I am a better person today because of it. This journey has taught me so much. I also believe that I am a more caring person because of my burn injury. So many people helped care for me; I have confidence that it’s my job to do the same.”

Rachel is grateful for the support of her family and friends. She is looking forward to a career that will allow her to provide her own unique perspective to patients going through physical therapy.

Story contributed  with permission by AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest non-profit providers of skin, bone, and soft tissue allografts for use in surgical procedures and the world’s largest processor of cellular bone allografts.  AlloSource has pledged a 10-year gift to support Phoenix Society’s Phoenix Education Grant program for burn survivor students pursuing their post-secondary education.  AlloSource blog:


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

Lionel and Joanna Crowther: Getting Through the Fire

Severely injured while battling a house fire in February 2007 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Lionel Crowther was among 4 of the 6 firefighters trapped by a flashover, that made it out of the blaze alive.

Lionel and his wife, Joanna, were the featured speakers at today’s general session.  Their discussion  “Getting Through the Fire”, revealed their personal journey as a burn-injured firefighter and spouse, and the impact on the entire family.

A firefighter with the City of Winnipeg (Canada) Fire Department, Lionel was finally able to find the support he needed upon attending the Phoenix Society’s 2009 World Burn Congress in New York City.  He notes that he was looking for another firefighter at that point to ask “What did you do?”  By connecting with others in the firefighter community through the Phoenix Society, the healing started to come together.

Lionel and Joanna explained the journey from that initial “call” that forever changed their lives, to the different healing paths they each encountered, both as individuals and as a family.   Lionel discussed what they discovered as a participant with Phoenix Society’s peer support for firefighters. He stated, “we learned that every burn survivor is an individual, and every individual has to have their own path.”

Today’s general session attendees were able to gain insight as to the challenges of a burn survivor’s recovery experience, how that path is different for their significant other, and how burn injury impacts the dynamics of the  entire family.  The audience also learned the unique perspective of healing and support for burn-injured firefighters.  Lionel has been able to bring his own unique perspective to the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program, as he has been trained as a SOAR Peer Supporter for burn survivors and firefighter burn survivors.

“The Phoenix Society helped me realize I wasn’t a burn victim anymore and that I was a survivor. I became proud to be a survivor fire fighter, survivor husband, and survivor father.”

Since their recovery, Lionel, with Joanna’s support and guidance, has concentrated his studies and training on Fire Fighter Survival, in it’s many forms. He has been appointed as a Master Instructor with the International Association of Fire Fighters Fire Ground Survival Program, trainer for the Petzl EXO Escape System, and is the District Coordinator for the IAFF 13th District Burn Foundation Coordinator. Only through constant training and support, Lionel was able to return to the front line as an active firefighter.

Positive Self-Talk: What Does it Mean, and How Do I Learn How To Do It or Make Sure That I Am Doing It Right?

By: Carla S. Oliver, MSW, CCLS

Self-talk is the talk that we do in our own heads about ourselves and the things that happen in our world. In other words, it’s like our own “running commentary” on our lives. Many times, this self-talk happens so automatically and unconsciously that we aren’t even aware of it. However, what we say to ourselves can have an enormous impact on the way that we feel, and on what we can achieve. Positive self-talk can act like an internal coach – by boosting our confidence, by helping us to believe in ourselves, and by encouraging and motivating us to achieve our goals.

The Power of Positive Affirmations

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor many years, sports psychologists have recognized the importance of positive self-talk in helping athletes achieve their fullest potential. Everyone who plays a competitive sport or who competes at a serious level faces tough times and obstacles to success: pain (physical and mental), less than perfect conditions, challenging opponents, fatigue, and exhaustion. The only way an athlete can be successful when facing these difficult situations is to have powerful self-belief and great determination. Positive self-talk is one tool that athletes use to achieve their very best in competition.

The concept is far from new. Those of you who are old enough may recall Stuart Smalley, a Saturday Night Live (SNL) character from the early 1990s. Stuart was a goofy character who became well known for his “Daily Affirmations” bit each week.  He had lots of catch phrases, but the most well known that we heard as he stood in front of his mirror in each episode was, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me.”

Despite the fact that Stuart was a character in a silly SNL skit, he was truly onto something. Positive affirmations affect our attitude. Our attitude, which can be greatly assisted by reminding ourselves of the positives, truly determines the direction in which our lives go. I have seen this over and over again throughout my personal life, and even more throughout my professional life. In my 20-plus years as a child life specialist, I have seen that the outcomes for people who have a positive outlook are largely successful, while those who have a more negative outlook seem to struggle from one problem to the next.

In the book The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic) by David Emerald, the validity of this concept is demonstrated. In a “fable,” we are introduced to a man who finds himself wallowing in self-pity for all that is wrong in his life (death of a parent; infertility, leading to divorce, etc.,). Every aspect of his life is hurting him, causing him to feel alone and full of self-pity. Then he meets Ted, a man who helps him learn how to become a “creator” (defined in the book to be the complete opposite of victim.) The simplified premise is that it easier for us to become “victims” to all that is wrong in our lives rather than to create solutions that will empower us to realize positive outcomes.

Moving From Victim to Survivor

The use of the word “victim” in the book was striking to me. It is a word that many years ago I would have used to describe anyone who had sustained a burn injury or any trauma. However, when I started my career in burns more than 15 years ago, I immediately discovered that the children and families I encountered were far from victims,—they were survivors. This simple, yet important, distinction is what I would like you to use as you continue to read this article. We are not victims. We are survivors.

Beyond Surviving: Tools for Thriving

As you access Phoenix Society resources, you will notice that the concept of “self-talk” is discussed in many of them. That includes the social skills training program, Beyond Surviving: Tools for Thriving, one of the Phoenix Society’s new Online Learning courses. Developed by Barbara Kammerer Quayle, it teaches the use of two important tools: STEPS, for achieving social comfort and confidence, and Rehearse Your Responses (RYR), for responding to awkward questions, uncomfortable social situation, or bullying. Both STEPS and RYR require a pause to think before speaking. RYR requires you to remind yourself, “I can handle this easily and confidently.” STEPS begins with positive self-talk, such as “I love and accept myself the way I am and the way I am not,” and results in a realization that when faced with a challenge, “I can do it!”

But, what if we can’t think of anything positive?  What if we have beaten ourselves up so much that our self-talk is more like an internal bully? Instead of lifting us up, it undermines and criticizes us. This is when we must make ourselves work at changing our self-talk.

For many adults and adolescents, this is easier said than done. If we have spent our lives focused on all that is wrong with us, all the things we aren’t good at, how do we retrain ourselves to change?

In children, this might come easier. As we know, some children show resiliency after experiencing difficult situations. However, in my years of working with kids I have found that this really has more to do with someone’s temperament and personality rather than age.

I remember reading an article in 2011 about Sarah Bazey, a burn survivor who made the decision that she would not let her scars define her life. The authors described an extremely poignant moment in her life (a short time after her discharge from the burn center and right after a tough day of therapy) when she completely broke down: “She allowed herself 30 minutes to pity all that wasn’t in her life. Thirty minutes of pure bitterness, sadness, hurt, anger, and tears. And then…hope again. After all, what had always been a part of her life in the first place was a positive attitude. ‘I can do this’ was a refrain all too familiar to her. It was time to echo that conviction again.” Sarah’s positive self-talk played a key role in her recovery.

Continue reading here

Carla S. Oliver, MSW, CCLS, is the manager of the therapeutic recreation/child life department at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She has practiced in the field of child life for more than 20 years, with the majority of her career dedicated to working with pediatric burn survivors and their families. Carla is a member of the mental health team for the World Burn Congress, where she has also co-presented the parent workshop for 4 years. She will be presenting the workshop at WBC 2013. Carla is also president-elect of the Child Life Council effective May 2013.

Cyber Bullying: What is it? And What Can You Do?

Bullying is a term we are hearing more often in the media and schools.  As we are becoming more informed about bullying, the more we need to know about the types of bullying that you or your children may be exposed to.bullyface

Cyber bullying is a more recent form of bullying that is on the rise.  As the channels of communication such as social media, web, and texting have multiplied, so have the number of ways bully’s can reach their victims. The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors has developed a resource to help explain bullying in more detail and give advice on what you can do to help prevent it, recognize it or address it if you see it.

Definition of Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying is bullying through email, instant messaging (IMing), chat room exchanges, Web site posts, or digital messages or images sent to a cellular phone (Kowalski et al. 2008). Cyber bullying, like traditional bullying, involves an imbalance of power, aggression, and a negative action that is often repeated.

Characteristics of Cyber Bullying:

  • Anonymity: As bad as the person who is bullying face-to-face may be, he or she can be readily identified and potentially avoided. On the other hand, the person who cyber bullies is often anonymous. The target is left wondering who the cyber “bully” is, which can cause a great deal of stress.
  • Accessibility: Most people who use traditional ways of bullying terrorize their victim at school, at work, on the school bus/ or walking to or from school, etc. Although bullying can happen elsewhere in the community, there is usually a standard period of time during which these children or adults have access to their targets. People who cyber bully can wreak havoc any time of the day or night.
  • Punitive Fears: Targets of cyber bullying often do not report it because of: (1) fear of retribution from their tormentors, and (2) fear that their computer or phone privileges will be taken away. In the case of children/teens who cyber bully, adults’ responses to this behavior are often to remove the technology from a target – which in their eyes can be seen as punishment.
  • Bystanders: Most traditional bullying episodes occur in the presence of other people who assume the role of bystanders or witnesses. Being a bystander in the cyber world is different in that they may receive and forward emails, view web pages, forward images sent to cell phones, etc. The number of bystanders in the cyber world can reach into the millions.
  • Disinhibition: The anonymity afforded by the Internet can lead people to engage in behaviors that they might not do face-to-face. Ironically, it is their very anonymity that allows some individuals to bully at all.

Adapted from: Katy Pearson, content 2012

What You Can Do: cyberbullycircle

  • Protect Yourself Keep your personal information private. Do not share passwords. Make your passwords easy to remember but difficult to guess (and do not use personal information, such as a phone number, in your password).
  • “Search” Yourself: Find out what information about you is public. Do an internet search of your name in various forms.
  • Stop, block and tell : If you are targeted by a cyberbully:
    • STOP!
      Don’t do anything. Take 5! to calm down.
    • Block!
      Block the cyberbully or limit all communications to those on your buddy list.
    • and Tell!
      Tell a trusted adult, you don’t have to face this alone.
      Report cyberbullying to
  • Practice the Internet “Golden Rule”-
    • Start by making sure you are sending things to the right place, that it arrives and that the right person gets it.
    • Is it worth sending? Don’t waste peoples’ time or bandwidth with junk, chain e-mails and false rumors.
    • Proofread and spell-check your e-mails and make sure they know who you are.
    • Don’t attack others online, say anything that could be considered insulting or that is controversial.
    • Don’t forward other people’s e-mails without their permission or share their
      personal information.
    • Are you angry when you are writing this message?
    • Don’t reply to spam, even to ask to be removed from their mailing list.
    • How private is the message you are sending? Are you willing to have others read this message or forward it to others without your permission?
  • You are accountable for your actions online/in the “virtual” world (just as in the “real” world). Do not allow bullying in any form, including cyber bulling.
  • Step away from the computer! Before responding to something you encounter online, take a few minutes to calm yourself. Ask for support from a trusted adult.
  • Be a part of the solution, not the problem. Never forward or share emails, photos, links, etc. which contain information that might cast a negative image of someone/something else. Don’t continue the negative dynamics public (by continuing an argument through email or texts, or retaliating). Don’t make the negative issues public (such as posting a negative message on a public website). Instead, report these negative messages to Help by using the technology instead of being controlled by it.
  • If you witness cyber bullying, staying silent makes the problem worse! Silence, when others are being hurt, is not acceptable. Everyone can be safer online and offline when bullying is not tolerated.

Adapted from: Wired Kids, Inc.

Additional Resources:
Cyber Bullying in the Digital Age by Robin K. Kowalski, Susan Limber and Patricia Agatston

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly by Nancy Willard, A Practical Guide to Keeping Kids Out of High-Tech Trouble, by Russell A. Sabella, Ph.D.

Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (includes information about bullying)

Laws (state and federal) which address bullying, harassment, and hazing:

Wird Kids, Inc.: Stop Cyberbullying:

Wired Safety, Internet Safety and Help Group:

For more information, including additional documents and strategies for children, teens, and adults facing these situations, please visit the File Center in the Online Learning Management system.

Ohio Survivor SOARs and Gives Back so Others Can

Tony Nuss Family - Photo 2 - Web - captionFour years after a near fatal explosion changed their lives forever, an Ohio burn survivor and his family are giving back.

Tony Nuss was heading to work on an average weekday morning when his car exploded. As a result, he lost his hearing and suffered second- and third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body. This was Tony’s introduction to surviving a burn injury, being introduced to the SOAR program helped him truly thrive again. 

“One of my biggest challenges has been adapting to my changed appearance and the change in how others view me,” he admits. “When I became part of the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program, I learned there is support and tools available to help you introduce yourself to the world after a burn injury. SOAR has helped me deal with the physical and emotional scars from his accident,” says Tony.

As trained SOAR peer supporters at UniversityHospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, Tony and his wife, Mary Beth, now offer their support to other burn survivors. “SOAR helped me adapt and overcome and it’s rewarding to be able to offer that same hope to others,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to see a once-scared person smile with relief after a SOAR visit.”

Tony and Mary Beth also found their experience at the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress to be “life-changing.” Tony, a software engineer, volunteered to work with the audiovisual team, as well as attend all of the programming he and his wife could. “Seeing the confidence and happiness that other survivors like myself radiate to the people around them made me see that I can live a long and happy life with my family with no regrets and with purpose while embracing being a burn survivor,” he explains.

Tony is looking forward to having his wife, their 8-year-old twins, and 2-year-old daughter all experience World Burn Congress together this fall. “We all experienced a trauma, healed together, and have become stronger. We’ll continue to give back as volunteers and donors to the Phoenix Society so those that follow on this journey have the same support and programs that changed our lives.” 

The Phoenix Society’s SOAR peer support program began in 2001 at 6 hospitals and is now offered at 56 hospitals in North America, connecting you to a national network of hundreds of peer supporters who make peer support accessible to more than 11,000 people each year. The recently expanded SOAR program now includes specialized peer support for members of the fire service who have been injured in the line of duty.

To become a SOAR hospital, a SOAR peer supporter, or receive a peer support visit, please contact Pam Peterson at or 800-888-2876.

Survivor, Lyle Sathoff, Races After His Dreams

lylerace_edited-1Megan Geerling, Phoenix Society Development Director, was recently following up with a friend, Lyle Sathoff, burn survivor and auto racing enthusiast.  His response and enthusiasm for sharing awareness of the Phoenix Society and his passion for auto-racing was both uplifting and pointedly honest.

Megan shared their dialogue with us, and asked for permission to share with all of you. 

Megan’s note to the office: 

“Thought I’d share a great story;  Lyle became my new friend last summer when he called to discuss putting our logo (Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors) on his race car.  He and his dad covered the body shop costs themselves.  We’ve kept in touch and he just sent some photos.  I asked him to share a little about his experience and the feedback he’s received.

His email below is a testament to how the SOAR program helps survivors thrive and in turn become our best advocates.”………….

Megan thanked Lyle for his continuing efforts to spread awareness about the Phoenix Society and for his support of other burn survivors.

Lyle’s email response…

”You’re very welcome.  It’s something I enjoy doing. I had some of the local people that followed my recovery closely tell me that they are happy to see me doing so well and happy to see I could take something like that and turn it into a positive thing and help spread awareness. I told them how I met a burn survivor that is part of the SOAR program through the Phoenix Society that helped me see that things would be fine after the hospital. I’m not going to lie I refused to talk to her a couple of times I felt like I had a lot to figure out on my own first but I was really glad that I talked to her in the end. I had a teacher at a school 18 miles away from my hometown contact me after hearing from one of her students about me.  She saw the Phoenix Society logo on the car and asked if I would be willing to talk to her classes about my experience and I was happy to do so. It was a great experience for me and the students. racecar

I was able to race my car weekly at the Fairmont Raceway in Fairmont, MN. I made a few appearances at the Jackson Speedway in Jackson, MN and the Redwood Falls Speedway in Redwood, MN. I would love to travel and race it is my dream….”

Turns out, Lyle’s promoter at the Fairmont Raceway saw the Phoenix Society logo on his car and shared with him that she is acquainted with Sara Bazey, Phoenix Society board member, SOAR peer supporter,  and Mrs. International 2012. 

It is a reminder that peer support is vital to a burn survivor’s recovery and the ability to enjoy life as it was meant to be.   It is by uniting our voices that we will be heard.  Thank you, Lyle, for spreading awareness of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and your support of burn survivors.  Our best wishes on your racing endeavors!