He thought it was a sandbox.
Jordin Madera had just turned 2 when, three years go, he and his family hit the sands of Huntington Beach to celebrate Mother’s Day.
Little Jordan spotted the sand in the circular spit and stepped in.
Luckily, only his right foot made it in.
Some thoughtless beachgoer had tossed a thin layer of sand over still-smoldering coals.
Screaming in agony, the bottom of his tiny foot instantly blistering up, Jordin ended up at UC Irvine Health Regional Burn Center for treatment.
After numerous surgeries and a month in the hospital, Jordin’s foot began to heal.
These days, only a small scar marks where he was severely burned, and the injury has not caused major permanent problems. But the memory still stings for his father, Thomas, who lives with his family in Norwalk.
Jordin was among 275 or so burn survivors who attended a Christmas party Dec. 15 at the Anaheim Convention Center that is sponsored every year by the UC Irvine Health Regional Burn Center, with a solid assist from volunteers with Anaheim Fire & Rescue.
Joining Jordin with his father was his brother, Jacob, 9.
AF&R sent about a dozen firefighters and other employees, including Chief Randy Bruegman, to mingle with the burn survivors and their families. Nurses and doctors from the burn center also were there. Photos with Santa, carolers, arts and crafts, a pasta dinner and Christmas cookies added to the fun.
This was Jordin’s third time attending the annual Christmas party.
“He thinks it’s a big party just for him,” Thomas Madera said with a laugh.
“I like this event because he (Jordin) gets to see other burn victims,” Madera added. “At this point, he’s still not afraid of fire. But by being here, he gets to see other burn (survivors) and see how seriously some of them have been injured.”
Several leaders of the burn community attended the event, including Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors (phoenix-society.org), based in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Acton knows all too well how severe burns leave physical as well as mental scars, with many survivors feeling the additional pain of being stared out while in public.
That’s why the annual Christmas party is a big deal for them, she says.
“Any time the burn survivor community can gather and come together and realize they’re not alone, it’s a great thing,” Acton said.
The UC Irvine Health Regional Burn Center is one of about 120 burn centers nationwide that partner with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.
Not everyone in attendance at the Dec. 15 gathering personally has suffered burns — or has loved ones who have.
But they’ve still been touched by the plights of burn survivors.
Two sisters from Covina, Breanna Roukema, 21, and Becca Parslow, 17, have a friend whose father suffered serious burns over 80 percent of his body several years ago in an out-of-state tragedy.
And Roukema, a nanny, has cared for a boy, now 9, who suffered burns when he was 4.
So two years ago, to raise awareness about burn survivors, Roukema and Parslow started the Burn Survivors Rock Walk, a 5k in Irvine that raised more than $1,000 for the UC Irvine Health Regional Burn Center.
A second 5K this October generated $2,500 for the burn center, which sees about 300 admissions a year, almost all for burn injuries. In addition, the center sees about 3,000 burn and wound outpatients every year.
Roukema and Parslow are using social media (click here for their website and here for their Facebook page) to raise awareness about the dangers of burns and to provide assistance to survivors through donations.
It’s their small way, they say, for doing what they can for burn survivors.
And attending Tuesday’s Christmas party, they say, made the holiday season even more special.