“If you are a burn survivor, it’s something you will have to deal with every day for the rest of your life,” says James E. Floros, executive director of the Burn Institute.
Helping burn victims not just survive but thrive is a big part of the mission at the Burn Institute, which serves San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. The nonprofit health agency was founded in 1972, primarily to push for a local burn center in San Diego. A year later, the UCSD Regional Burn Center was founded.
Though the two are independent entities, they share an affinity for each other, and the Burn Institute has contributed more than a million dollars toward research over the years. More importantly, the Burn Institute steps in to help with every new burn survivor. “Literally, the moment somebody is admitted to the regional burn center, they become a part of our family,” says Floros, who has been with the Burn Institute for nearly two decades.
That means immediate assistance in the form of emergency housing and financial help for families who are uninsured or low-income. The Burn Institute also provides access to medical treatments that might not be covered by insurance, such as burn masks that can greatly aid in healing facial injuries.
After the initial recovery phase — which can be incredibly painful and traumatic — the Burn Institute offers survivor support programs that teach coping skills. This ranges from school re-entry programs, scholarships, and a summer camp for kids to a retreat for adult survivors.
To save others from suffering through the horrific experience of a burn injury, the Burn Institute spends more than half its annual budget on prevention. “We’re very dedicated to ending preventable burn injuries,” says Floros. “There’s a statistic that I find astonishing but also exciting in terms of what we can do: More than 80 percent of burn injuries are preventable.”
The Burn Institute’s prevention programs reach every segment of the population, from expecting parents to retirees. Targeted literature teaches common sense: Turn the pot handles back, turn the water heater down, keep kids out of the kitchen. Children, whose thinner skin makes them susceptible to lasting burn injuries, are among the most frequent victims of burns, as are senior citizens, who are the most likely to die in house fires. The Burn Institute installs more than a thousand smoke alarms a year for seniors in San Diego. All of these services are free to the public. “We’re a local agency and every dollar raised here stays here,” says Floros. “This is not my Burn Institute. This is the community’s Burn Institute.”
This year, the nonprofit’s annual Chief’s Tournament has been upgraded to a two-day event, which includes the highly anticipated Golf Classic at Maderas Golf Club, preceded by an inaugural gala, which will be held on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, when 383 firefighters lost their lives. The Burn Institute, which relies heavily on individual and corporate donations, is also a beneficiary of this year’s Art of Fashion, put on by The Country Friends in partnership with South Coast Plaza on September 22. (www.burninstitute.org) ANNAMARIA STEPHENS