Honing their skills, helping burned kids

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Honing their skills, helping burned kids

Camper Waylon Huff waits on the dock before boarding a kayak for a quick trip around the Fort Yargo lake.

When Dana Dillard (MSW ’01) signed up for a new course called Social Work with Burn Survivors at the end of her first year in graduate school, she had no idea that a decade later she would be an integral part of a summer camp for children who have suffered severe burns.

“I still joke with (my professor) that I can remember the day that I stood outside of her office door and had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for camp,” Dillard recalls.

Now the programs director for Camp Oo-U-La, sponsored by the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation, Dillard is involved in the planning and programming for the week-long summer camp, which has been offered free of charge to Georgia children since 1992. Children between the ages of 7 and 17, who have spent at least four days in the burn unit of a Georgia hospital, are eligible. As many as 100 campers attend the camp each summer.

Dillard, like many volunteers, learned about the camp through the School of Social Work and Associate Professor Nancy R. Williams, who founded the course. She volunteered, spending summer vacations at Camp Oo-U-La while working as a medical social worker and later as a school social worker, before becoming programs director in 2008.

“The kids get into your heart and you just fall in love with them,” she says.

Social work students and alumni volunteers at the camp come equipped not only to help in various staff positions but also to assist with the psychosocial needs of the campers.

This year, 14 UGA social work students volunteered for course credit as part of the burn camp class. Almost 20 percent of the volunteers at the camp this year were social work students and alumni.

About the Author

—Emily Williams is the director of communications for the UGA School of Social Work.