Volunteer Spotlight: Liz Hess

Posted on Feb 15, 2023 in Spotlights

Since 1994, Burn Prevention Network’s Camp Susquehanna has changed the lives of hundreds of young burn survivors. Long-time camp volunteer and current co-director Liz Hess can attest to the significant impact Camp has on those who attend–even 19 years after first volunteering.

In 2004, one year after surviving a burn injury, 21-year-old Liz arrived at Camp Susquehanna to assist as a camp volunteer with Burn Prevention Network. For Liz, Camp was the first place she felt confident enough to wear shorts and where she met other burn survivors like herself. “It played a pivotal role in my recovery and my journey to self-acceptance, so I know firsthand the gift of being around other people who are accepting and look like you,” said Liz.

Throughout her time volunteering at Camp Susquehanna, Liz acknowledged the immense power Camp has in bringing out the best in people, given its nurturing and empowering environment and the support offered by all who attend each year. She has found the great sense of community and advocacy for one another shared by the campers and volunteers, regardless of their individual stories, to be one of the most healing aspects of Camp.

“One thing that has always been such a blessing to me about this camp is the diversity. Burns impact people from all various backgrounds, value systems, and cultures. So while at camp each individual has the chance to get to know people from very different walks of life who may or may not have entered their circles in regular life. Camp is one of the few places I have experienced where it is easy to see that despite our differences, we all have so much in common,” said Liz.

Liz is still active in her efforts to help others feel comfortable in their skin. For 14 years, she worked at Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Regional Burn Center, overseeing peer support programs, providing mental health counseling, and facilitating support groups for pediatric and adult burn survivors.

While she no longer works in the burn center today, Liz works as a clinical social worker in private practice outpatient therapy, specializing in trauma, social skill development, grief, and body image issues. Throughout her life and journey as a burn survivor, advocate, and social worker, Liz remains passionate about the importance and impact of Camp Susquehanna.

Looking back, Liz said, “I’m a social worker who has worked in a burn center for 14 years, and [camp] really helped me stay connected to the heart of my job and the humanity of my patients and families. I found that being at camp, having fun, and getting to experience kids in a different setting built my own internal resilience for day-to-day living.”