Lake Norman & Mooresville

Recycle and give back with aluminum cans

Before you make your next trip to one of the Household Waste Management Centers in Denver, consider donating to a worthy cause.

Empty aluminum cans can be deposited in one of the trailers behind each of the three Denver fire stations. The cans then are sold to a recycling center, with all proceeds supporting the Lincoln County Chapter of the North Carolina Firefighters Burned Children's Fund.

Organized in 1991, the local chapter of this statewide organization is headed by Tony Jenkins, a firefighter with the Lincolnton Fire Department. The Denver Fire Department's representative, an unpaid position, is Christopher Perez. Perez is assisted by Greg Greenhalgh, who works both as a paid and volunteer firefighter.

The Lincoln County Chapter is one of 18 chapters in North Carolina, the largest being the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chapter.

The can recycling program in the Denver area alone nets approximately $2,000 a year. With the price of aluminum averaging 40-60 cents a pound, it would appear Denver residents are turning in 4,000 pounds of cans each year.

Lincoln County Waste Management sites, in comparison, collect approximately 43 tons of aluminum and steel cans each year.

Diverting the majority of cans to the fire station collection trailers would result in a significant increase in money available to support the Burned Children's Fund.

The fund is "dedicated to the support, education, and recovery of burn survivors and their families and the prevention of burn injuries," according to the fund's website.

The proceeds earned from fundraising efforts are used exclusively for non-medical assistance to child burn victims, as well as developing and implementing burn-prevention programs.

One of the most noteworthy of the Burned Children's Fund's programs, Camp Celebrate, is operated in conjunction with the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Centers at the University of North Carolina Hospitals. Created in 1981, Camp Celebrate was the first camp in the United States devoted exclusively to pediatric burn survivors.

Held this year in May at the YMCA Camp Kanata in Wake Forest, Camp Celebrate offers burn victims between the ages of 7 and 15 opportunities to learn successful coping strategies while enjoying a highly structured outdoor experience. They also have the opportunity to interact with other young burn victims who understand what they've been through.

The young campers rode to Camp Kanata in an armada of firetrucks escorted by police cars.

"Anything that blinked or made noise was going," said Greenhalgh. "The kids were like firecrackers: Smiling, screaming like Elvis was in the building."

Camp activities are planned by a committee that includes specialists in recreation therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, social work and education.

Upon arrival, each camper is assigned to a cabin according to age and sex, and, in addition to a lead counselor for the cabin, an individual volunteer counselor assists every child to have a successful camping adventure. All counselors are required to have one day of training to learn strategies for more effectively dealing with pediatric burn victims.

Approximately 70 campers are supported by more than 100 volunteers, including Greenhalgh, as they participate in activities including swimming, canoeing, arts and crafts, horseback riding and fishing.

"At the end of the three-day-two-night camp, it was difficult to leave," said Greenhalgh. "You bond pretty quickly with the kids with whom you interact."

Supporting this worthwhile endeavor is as simple as bringing your aluminum cans to a trailer adjacent to a Denver fire station. In turn, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are aiding in two very good causes, one environmental and the other humanitarian.