KERRVILLE â€” When she was 3, Karla Ovalle and her twin sister were playing in their back yard with their uncle, who was preparing a barbecue. While her uncle was inside the house getting her sister some water, Karla started playing with a gasoline container and accidentally threw it onto the pit.
The flames rose and engulfed her, and â€œI donâ€™t remember much after that,â€ said Karla, now 16. â€œI know my neighbors helped me.â€
She spent six months in the hospital recovering from burns covering the front of her body. While there, Karlaâ€™s mother learned about the Camp David Burn Camp.
Karla is now in her eighth year spending a free summer week at the Texas Lions Camp facility in rural Kerr County. On Wednesday, she and 52 other campers enjoyed an hour with firefighters from all over Central Texas who talked about their job, showed the kids the equipment they use and let them drench each other, as well as their counselors, with a fire hose.
Kerrville Fire Department Lt. Zane Zenner said being able to do it brings him a â€œwhole piece of gratitude.â€
â€œSeeing an individual whoâ€™s gone through so much hardship and to see them happy … it brings a whole lot of joy to not just me but to everyone,â€ Zenner said.
Hosted by the Texas Burn Survivor Society, Camp David gives child burn survivors, their siblings and children of burn survivors the opportunity to engage with other kids ages 7 to 16 who understand what theyâ€™ve experienced.
It helps the children realize they are not alone, relieving the isolation they might feel in their day-to-day lives, the societyâ€™s executive director, Sue Dodson, said.
â€œEveryone has injuries, everyone knows someone who has injuries,â€ volunteer Daryl Burns, 37, said of the campers. â€œWhen you get to come here, the only thing expected of you is that you be a good person and have fun.â€
Camp David provides a lot of activities â€” rock climbing, zip lines, fishing, arts and crafts, archery, horse riding and â€œfirefighter day,â€ which this year drew first responders from San Antonio, Austin, Kerrville and Waco.
San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood said he brings his sons with him to the camp â€œso they can see that adversity happens to everyone and they can overcome it.â€
Sheridan Hood, 16, who has been there eight times, was impressed at the campersâ€™ attitudes.
â€œI feel like, I see these kids and their burns and theyâ€™re always just smiling,â€ he said. â€œThey always seem like theyâ€™re having a good time.â€
After hearing her older sisters say good things about the camp, Karla was excited to attend with her twin sister when they turned 7.
Chaciti McMorris, 15, who was burned on her left side from boiling water that fell on her as she and her brother were playing in their kitchen, recalled the anxiety she felt her first year at camp.
â€œI was really nervous, but my brother came with me the first year. I was nervous I wouldnâ€™t have everything,â€ Chaciti said.
A camp volunteer for seven years, Burns said the new kids arriving Sunday to start their stay sometimes struggle to open themselves up to others.
â€œGenerally, weâ€™ll see that they donâ€™t want to leave mom and dad,â€ he said. â€œWe usually see the opposite reaction on Saturday.â€
Chaciti found the camp very welcoming.
â€œThe first day is always the most awkward, but once you camp out everything is a lot less awkward because you spend a lot of time talking and getting to know each other,â€ she said.
The camp wouldnâ€™t be able to serve burn survivors without the help of its volunteers.
â€œThe first year I was here, I thought it was for them,â€ Burns said. â€œThen I got hooked and itâ€™s still my favorite week of the year.â€
He said volunteering at the camp has given him a perspective that has has helped him get through his own challenges.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter whatâ€™s going on in your life. You come out here and see these kids, you realize how trivial it is,â€ Burns said.