Rogers firefighter volunteers at burn camp for kids

No shirt, no shoes, but there’s still plenty of service at Camp RED in northern Minnesota.

Going shirtless is particularly notable for child burn victims who are otherwise reluctant to show their scars.

“It’s so encouraging for these kids not to be afraid to take off their shirt,” Roger Sabot said. “ ‘If he can do it, then we can do it too,’ is the mentality. Being who you are and not being afraid about it is such a huge part of this camp.”

Camp RED is personal for the Rogers business owner and longtime resident, who also has been a firefighter and EMT for 39 years with the Rogers Fire Department. Sabot’s youngest granddaughter, Penelope, 5, survived a burn trauma in 2017, so when he saw a news segment about Camp RED, he made contact with its volunteer team and became involved.

Camp RED (Realize Every Dream) is run by Firefighters for Healing and is one of the first children’s burn camps in Minnesota. It just finished the summer residential session in August. Camp RED gives burn survivors ages 6-16 the opportunity to live beyond their scars and to be kids again.

For four days, campers are surrounded by other families who have shared experiences and similar injuries, feelings, fears and concerns.

The camp medical director is noted Hennepin County Medical Center burn surgeon Dr. Jon Gayken, a Rogers resident. Gayken himself was a patient in the HCMC burn unit nearly 20 years ago.  His recovery from extensive skin grafting gave him passion and knowledge of both the acute and long-term psychological outcomes affecting burn patients, their families and the reintroduction into their new life and into society.

Gayken was also Penelope Sabot’s doctor.

“Dr. Gayken and his family are such a big part of the camp,” Sabot said. “And because of the good work he is doing at HCMC, Penelope is doing just fine.”

Sabot is very involved not only in firefighting, but volunteering at Target Field with the first aid team and at U.S. Bank as a coordinator for the first aid team for Hennepin Healthcare. He has seen and treated injuries that are preventable and has helped save lives. Part of his role in Rogers is fire prevention and requires time talking to students in area schools about fire safety.

“I truly feel that quality time talking honestly about prevention is so important,” he said.

At Camp RED last month, Sabot got to lead a cabin of 7-to-9-year-old boys who had survived burn trauma and had emotional and physical scars “but knew they deserved to smile, have fun and be kids again.”

Part of the fun is horseback riding, swimming and tubing — no shirt required.

“It’s really magic what Camp RED does for these campers,” he said. “It’s healing for the kids and it’s a great story. I’m so glad to bring awareness to this program.”

For more information, email info@campRED.org or see firefightersforhealing.org. To donate, send checks to P.O. Box 374, Champlin MN, 55316 or visit firefightersforhealing.org/donate.

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