Sunday, September 23, 2012

World Burn Congress

If you are reading this blog, you might be wondering, “What exactly is a World Burn Congress?” Well, please allow me to share with you…that it is a beautiful experience to witness individuals who have overcome unimaginable adversity and pain as they find support, encouragement, peace, hope, and unconditional love in a safe environment.

With fellow burn survivor and friend Tony

Just last week, more than 800 burn survivors, caregivers, fire fighters and burn care professionals joined together for the 24th Annual World Burn Congress in Milwaukee, WI. Though I am certain this event means something a different to each attendee, I will share with you my perspective as a board member and burn survivor.

Local visitors bureau capturing testimonials from WBC participants

Starting with my favorite part in all of the conference, which is called “Open Mic.” This is a period of time devoted each day to an open forum where anyone in the room can raise their hand and be given as much time as they need to tell their story. There is no judgment, no repeating of stories outside the room, and boxes of tissue on each and every table.

The strong and courageous Jonathan

Aside from open mic, there are seminars on how to apply makeup to add eyebrows where they no longer exist, groups gather to discuss how to respond to strangers who stare, a large ballroom is filled with exhibitors who are devoted to burn prevention and care, a silent auction raises funds to support programs and a youth program that gives young people a chance to feel as though they belong without anyone pointing out their scars. The speakers and panels that educate and inspire go on for days, awards are given for those who make significant contributions (including a very special guest this year, who I will be blogging about shortly), and the event always ends with a fabulous party.

Not only is Ariel a survivor, but a future Miss Teen International

Also, this year there was a once in a life time opportunity for me to participate wearing a different “hat,” literally…my crown! I was so thrilled to spend hours posing for pictures with attendees and signing autograph cards, which was so very special for me. As a keynote speaker last year following my selection as Mrs. Minneapolis International, many of the Phoenix Society members cheered me on as I became Mrs. Minnesota International and were over the moon when I was crowned Mrs. International!

Signing Autograph Cards with local CBS News filming
 
Congratulatory hug from Laurie
 
Congratulatory kiss on the hand from the charming Richard
 
As a board member there is a business side to it all, therefore, I am always tuned into the number of attendees, the value they receive for the registration, how well the conference runs, and trying to assess the level of stress on a staff that gives 100% and then some. A board meeting is always conducted at the beginning of the event, and an annual membership meeting is held near the end with an update to all members of the financial, as well as, overall condition of the organization.

It takes a village and both Grant and I know to survive

The 2013 World Burn Congress will be held in Rhode Island, and it will be the 10th Anniversary of the Rhode Island Station nightclub fire, which some of you may remember from the news coverage it received in 2003. It is certain to be a wonderful event, and if you…or someone you know could benefit from attending a World Burn Congress, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Phoenix Society at www.phoenix-society.org or send me a message.

Best wishes always,

Sarah Bazey
Mrs. International 2012

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