Danielle knows better than most that some wounds take time to heal.
In July of 2021, her son CJ suffered severe burns to his arm after a treadmill accident and spent three weeks at UMC Children’s Hospital Pediatric Burn Center in Las Vegas.
In the weeks that followed, Danielle struggled to talk about that day. “In the beginning, you can’t see yourself getting past such a traumatic experience,” she says. “You’re filled with emotions and you don’t know how to express yourself. It’s a lot for you and your child to go through.”
Four months after the accident, CJ and Danielle were invited to attend Little Heroes Fire Burn Camp in Livermore, Calif., a burn recovery program for young burn survivors and their families. Each year, Angel Flight West flies dozens of children to programs offered by Firefighters Burn Institute and other similar organizations. The experience was transformational for both CJ and Danielle, so they signed up for the second time in 2022.
Angel Flight West Volunteer Pilot Peter Danzig flew Danielle and her son to the faraway destination, with Petertaking some extra time to show CJ parts of his plane when they landed. “It was so good for CJ to experience this,” comments Danielle. “Every time he sees a plane, he says he’s going to learn how to fly one day.”
After their weekend away, Volunteer Pilot Tim Baloian helped the family make it back home. “Tim picked us up in Livermore, and he said it was his very first angel flight – and we were his first family! It’s great for CJ to see at a young age that you can have your own plane. As he gets older, he’ll know the possibilities are out there.”
In between their two angel flights, Danielle and CJ joined seven other families for a weekend filled with support, community, and compassion. “It makes such a difference,” recalls Danielle. “It gives you a space to know that other people care. It’s good to know that others have pushed through, and it gives you the strength to know that you can push through, too.”
CJ also enjoyed his weekend at camp, making new friends with children who have had similar journeys. “Burn survivors can connect with each other on a deeper level. There’s someone else dealing with this, and they can help each other,” says Danielle. “Even though something traumatic has happened, his spirit is still so bright.
He’s a fighter. He’s a true warrior. My son is my hero.”