The Brothers Keepers Motorcycle Club converged on Lake Bistineau State Park this weekened to raise funds for a good cause.
Helping to fund the burn camp in Scottsville, Texas, the 13th annual Burn Run was another success. As of press time, the total amount raised this year was unavailable, but in 2014, the club, along with others, raised $43,000. Shreveport Chapter president Damon Johnson says the first year, they raised $500.
“We started raising money for the Percy R. Burn Foundation, which sponsors ‘Camp I’m Still Me,’” he said. “It is a burn camp for kids in the summer where kids with severe burns are able to go and just have a nice, fun summer camp week. It’s the one time a year where they get to be normal and not worry about their scars.”
The camp was established through physicians with the burn unit at University Health in Shreveport.
The Brothers Keepers MC has chapters in the United States, Australia and Canada. They are a group of paid volunteer firemen who own motorcycles.
“We just get together and raise money for different charities in different areas and just for the love of riding,” Johnson said.
During burn week, the chapter will ride to Scottsville, present the check and spend some time with the kids.
“The kids light up when they see you pull in on a motorcycle, and they see the fire truck,” he said. “Just them being kids. They don’t have to hide their scars, they don’t have to worry about being teased or made fun of. It just touches your heart when they run up to you and want to give you a hug and thank you for doing what you do.”
They chose Lake Bistineau State Park, he says, because the fundraiser has grown over the years and needed more space to host their events during the weekend. The first events were hosted at Camp Joy, but as it grew, it had to be moved, he says.
“Webster Parish has embraced our event, and has helped us obtain the park,” he said. “They’ve donated the park fees to us, and we get an advertising grant from the Webster Parish (Convention and Visitors Bureau), and they’ve opened their arms and welcomed us 100 percent.
The staff at the state park has just been so helpful to accommodate this.”
As the fundraiser has grown, the very kids that benefit from it have come back to help with it.
Bridgett Dauzat, 27, of Castor, was a camper and later a camp counselor at the burn camp, and without it, she says she doesn’t know what she would have done.
Her story begins in 1993, when she and her cousins were playing in the yard. Her father was burning some stumps and the gas can blew up and shot across the yard. She suffered second and third degree burns over 76 percent of her body.
“My mom and dad tackled me down to the ground and put me out and rushed me to the hospital,” she said, “and I was sent to LSU from Homer (then Homer Memorial Hospital).”
In June 1994, she attended her first camp.
Growing up was hard for her, she says.
“A lot of the kids picked on me,” she said. “I had a very bad problem with self-esteem. I didn’t think I was pretty or anything. I stayed active in sports, and before I got burned, I was in a lot of pageants.”
Following the accident, she was pulled out of the pageant scene until her high school years when she competed at Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School. She says she placed in the pageants almost each time.
Although she grew up in Castor, she spent her school years at Glenbrook and at Lakeside so she could play sports.
Going through the aftermath and learning to live with the disfiguration, Dauzat has become a stronger person, saying she learned looks aren’t everything.
“It’s about what’s on the inside and how you have an outlook on things,” she said. “You just push forward through life no matter what. Burn camp helped me find who I am, and it let me know
I’m not the only one. There’s other people and there were other people that were worse than me.”
She went back to the burn camp each year, graduating from camper to junior counselor to camp counselor to help other kids.
“It was a big change,” she said, “because I had been going for so long that they made me a junior counselor when I was 14, and I went to a full-fledged counselor when I was 17. When I had my kids and I didn’t go, it was heartbreaking.”
She has children and is now married and moving forward with her life. She does go to the camp for two or three days a year, but this is the first year she has been able to participate in the burn run and give back to the camp.
“They’re like a second family,” she says of everyone at the burn camp.