Handing over a check of more than $3,500 to a charity that allows children who suffer burns attend camp would have been nice enough, but for Jim Kubinski, it was personal.
Kubinski, a Naperville firefighter/paramedic with the , received second-degree burns to his face in 1997 while responding to a fire in River Grove. He recovered completely, but realized how lifechanging being burned could be, particularly to children.
“If you are disfigured as a child growing up, you are subjected to a lot of ridicule and being picked on when you are at school,” Kubinski said. “The fact these kids are at this camp is a very major self-esteem booster because they don’t have to be worried about how they look. Everyone at that camp has gone through the same thing as they have.”
Earlier last week, the Naperville Professional Firefighters Local #4302 in conjunction with the Naperville Fire Department and donated $3,543.65 to the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA) to help fund a burn survivor camp during Thursday’s union meeting.
“This is the largest amount we raised for this camp during this event,” Kubinski said. “It is more than double that we have raised at any other time.”
The donation was given to Camp I Am Me, a camp, which has been held the third week of June for the last 22 years at the YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside. IFSA assistant executive director Laura Barros said about 85 to 100 children ages 8-16 with severe burns attend the event.
“We pay for everything through donations, which adds up to $2,000 per camper,” Barros said. “The majority of our donations come from fire departments.”
Barros said the camp has about a one to one camper to staff ratio with counselors consisting of burn survivors, former campers, social workers, fire fighters and nurses.
Kubinski headed fundraising for Camp I Am Me this year, calling the event Heroes Helping Kids Heal. He was looking for ways to improve the fundraiser and to attract more people.
The fundraiser was held at BlackFinn American Saloon in downtown Naperville.
Heroes Helping Kids Heal was held Oct. 14 during Fire Prevention Week. On that day, 10 percent of patrons' tabs went to the fundraiser.
Inside the restaurant, Kubinski and his colleagues worked as servers— which entailed clearing tables, taking orders, serving food and talking about the charity.
“We try to participate in as many charity events as possible,” said Randy Deguzman, operating partner of Black Finn. “We feel that becoming a community leader, you have to give back as much as you can.”