Motorcycle ride and parade for burn survivors comes through Kalamazoo

Motorcycle ride and parade for burn survivors comes through Kalamazoo. FILE-WWMT

The Great Lakes Burn Camp led kids to summer camp at Pretty Lake in Mattawan, and they did it with the help of some local heroes and bikers.

It's a week a special group of children look forward to all year long.

Nearly 470 motorcycles and 50 fire trucks escorted campers from Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo to the Great Lakes Burn Camp at Pretty Lake.

“I've watched it for 18 years, 18 years later I still get a big lump in my throat,” said Eric Balliet, Camp Safety Director. “Big guy gets a big lump in his throat watching it happen, because it's just pretty darn cool.”

For the next week, 72 kids - ages 7 to 17 - will swim, enjoy arts and crafts and a variety of sports. They'll also meet other burn survivors.

“Our motto is to make sure that they're having a good time, nobody's going to make fun of them for this week,” said Balliet.

Kaleb Porter is back for his third year as a camper, who enjoys the camp each year.

“I get to meet people like me, who them themselves have been burnt, and I just get along better with people like this,” said Porter.

Brandy Haines, former camper turned counselor said it's a chance for kids to be themselves. It is her first year as a counselor, and she said she hopes to inspire campers to just be themselves.

“The counselors and everybody have given so much to me and made me the woman that I am today, so now it's just my turn to give back and help some other kid out,” said Haines.

“What they don't realize is there our heroes,” said Balliet. “Watching them grow into young adults and overcome adversities that I have never had to go through is a pretty awesome experience to watch. They are truly our heroes.”

The camp serves children from across the country and this year, one camper came all the way from Washington.

To learn more about the Great Lakes Burn Camp, check out our Links page.

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