Katherin Taylor

Today marks 12 years of being a burn survivor!  On May 2nd of 2009 my life changed.  Every year as the day approaches, I sometimes don’t even want to think about it, because it was a traumatic day for me, but also a reminder that I’m alive and I overcame it.  For those who don’t know me on a personal level, I was adopted twice.  The second family that I was adopted into, I went to live with when I was seven.  The man who was supposed to be the “father” was a really crappy man who didn’t protect his “kids”, instead he was the one who hurt me more than any man I’ve ever met in my life.  When I was 10 years old, he was writing me and his biological daughter’s names on the driveway with gasoline and lighting it on fire.  For a 10-year-old I thought it was cool at the time.  I was sitting in the garage with my adopted mother, and he threw the gasoline on the tiki torches and a big blue ball of fire came towards us.  I was burned on my face, arms, and legs.  I spent two weeks at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.  I had to re-learn how to walk and I had to adjust to the different face I had.  I had recurring nightmares of that day.  I was scared to be around fire, especially going to a hibachi restaurant where they cook the food in front of you!  It took me forever to not fear fire!  So, every year I reflect back on how much this impacted my life.  It’s hard for me to talk about it without breaking down because it’s a type of hurt that doesn’t just go away overnight.  I used to wear long sleeves and jeans all year round, not caring how hot it was, because I was ashamed of how I looked.  I was bullied by other kids because they didn’t understand what happened.  I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.  I hid all the scars I could because I didn’t like the way people would look at me.

I started attending GFBF camp for burn survivors in the summer of 2010.  This camp has helped me grow in so many ways.  This camp helped me with confidence, and I learned how to embrace something that was bad and learned how to look at the positives.  It also taught me to forgive someone who didn’t deserve it, but to set myself free from the pain I felt.  This camp has helped me make friends that have gone through what I’ve experienced as a burn survivor and gave me friends for life!  I thank God for putting my friends and people who I call my family in my life to help shape me into the confident woman that I am today!  It took years for me to become the person I am today.  My face healed, I still have some scars on my arms and my left leg is the only one that has scars that are still healing.  Each year, the scars on my left leg gets smaller and smaller.  I am grateful to be alive, I am blessed with friends and family that love me!  Without you I don’t think I would be the confident woman I am today!  I have never missed a year of burn camp until the pandemic hit.  Even as an adult now, going back each year as a counselor has helped me give back to the younger generation just like what had been given to me from the adults who helped me when I was a kid.  Thank God for healing my spirit.  If I didn’t have my faith, I honestly would not be the Katherin I have fought so hard to become!  Thank you to my Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation Family for all that y’all do for our burn community!  Y’all have changed my life for the better!

Coweta County Fire Department on Giving Burns The Virtual Boot

People around the state have been stepping up to support their local fire department’s virtual fundraising campaign. This issue’s spotlight is on Coweta County Fire Rescue, who like many other departments adjusting to the pandemic, have been working overtime to transform their traditional in-person Give Burns The Boot® campaign into a virtual one.

Coweta County held their virtual drive the week of December 13-19. In addition to a great promo video that was created, featuring Fire Chief Pat Wilson, they were able to advertise in several locations, including the fire department and county Facebook pages, and firefighters even posted to their personal social media platforms as well, advertisements ran multiple times in the Newnan Times Herald, flyers were posted in business locations around the county, for example, Great South Harley Davidson posted it on their website to help spread the word. In addition, donor names are entered into a drawing for one of two beautiful gift basket giveaways. What a great incentive!

Burn injuries and trauma haven’t stopped and many thanks to Coweta County Fire Rescue for not allowing COVID-19 to stop them. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!  Click HERE to view their promo video.

Hall County Strives for Five

Their theme was “Strive For Five”, and that’s exactly what Hall County Fire Services did!  Hall County began their campaign virtually along with many other departments across the State.  In spite of the pandemic, fundraising is still needed in order to sustain the programs & services much needed in the burn survivor community, and GFBF encouraged the support of fire departments by participating in a virtual boot drive that would generate the much needed funds while remaining safe.

Having raised the most money over the last four years, Hall County was determined to make it five in a row, and as months went on and the world began learning more about living with COVID-19, Hall County made the decision to conduct a traditional boot drive in October with safety precautions in place.  Not only did Hall County “Strive For Five”, but 2020 has turned out to be the department’s historically highest year of money collected in their 20 years of participating in GFBF’s Give Burns The Boot® campaign.  Congratulations to Hall County Fire Services!

Cherokee County Fire Department on Giving Burns The Virtual Boot!

Due to the unusual climate brought on by COVID-19, the annual Give Burns the Boot Campaign traditionally held at intersections and storefronts just wasn’t a viable option for the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation (GFBF) this year.  After all, the safety of those we serve, our partners, volunteers and staff is always a priority. So adjustments were made and new strategies were brainstormed which led to fire departments throughout the state hosting virtual boot drives in support of GFBF program service offerings.

Through October, Cherokee County Fire Department led the state on the online giving site giveburnstheboot.org.  Elizabeth Elder, boot drive coordinator for the department, contributes a number of things to the success of their virtual boot drive:

Community Touch Points:

  • We get a lot of money from our community when we do neighborhood smoke alarm battery changes, we inform the neighborhood organizer that we are raising money for the Boot Drive and what that money goes towards, like sending kids to a camp program for children impacted by burn injury & trauma and that this year 20% of the funds collected is designated for Fire Safety Education in the local community.  As we go house to house, many of the residents will hand us a check or cash donations.
  • We also have many individual smoke alarm appointments and residential home fire inspections.  We will give them a Boot Drive information card and let them know about it and many of them will write a check or make a cash donation right there.
  • We placed a Boot on our table for donations during our Touch a Truck Event.

Getting the Word Out:

  • We posted the Boot Drive on the Cherokee Fire website with a running total of donations received.
  • We also had it posted on the County’s website, followed with an email sent out to all county employees.
  • It appeared on the Safe Kids Cherokee County FB page.
  • We placed an article in two local newspapers about the Give Burns the Boot Campaign.

Elizabeth also says they’re still trying to put together a Cooking with a Firefighter Cookbook to help raise money as well.  When the department exceeded their initial pre-set goal this October, they decided to increase their target goal and they’re still going strong with donations coming in daily!  To make a donation through Cherokee County Fire Department’s virtual boot drive or for a listing of other fire departments, visit giveburnstheboot.org.

Honoring our Firefighters

First responders have always been on the front lines in our communities and always been front and center for GFBF.  We want to reflect upon the February 4, 2020 celebration of Georgia’s outstanding fire service at the GFBF Annual Firefighter Recognition Day Luncheon. We were proud to provide lunch to over 350 firefighters who spent the day in downtown Atlanta at Firefighter Recognition Day held at the Georgia State Capitol.

Lunch featured an inspiring program with speakers including burn survivor Narda and her mother Fabiola Sigala, Dr. Walter Ingram Medical Director of Grady’s Burn  Center, and Beverly Thompson Public Education Specialist and Boot Drive Coordinator with DeKalb County Fire Rescue.

We captured wonderful moments of our celebration.  Please take a moment to click here to view and enjoy these inspiring event photos.

Give Burns The Boot Campaign Update

Like you, we have been watching with concern as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread throughout Georgia and the world.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those families directly affected by the virus, and those worrying about their health and economic security.  The Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation’s (GFBF) number one priority is the well-being of those we serve, our stakeholders, partners, volunteers and staff, which is why we’ve made the difficult, yet important decision to postpone all in-person programming and fundraising events, including the Give Burns the Boot Campaigns, scheduled to kick-off in May.

While we are extremely concerned with postponing boot drive, our largest source of revenue, we know this is the most responsible decision for the health and safety of the public at large, but as we move through uncertain times, we want to remind you of the good that remains. We want to remind you that GFBF remains dedicated to continuing as a source of hope and support to both the burn survivor and fire service communities.  COVID-19 has simply nudged us to try new and innovative ways of providing help, hope and healing beyond the burn.  As mentioned in a recent blog I read, “Conversations will not be cancelled.  Love will not be cancelled.  Hope will not be cancelled,” and that rings true for us as well.

We appreciate your continued commitment to GFBF, and understand that we must adapt to a swiftly changing environment, given both the sustainability and economic impact to our mission.  GFBF is fortunately built on a strong foundation, thanks to your longstanding committed support.  We are wisely stewarding our resources as we navigate these turbulent times and remain hopeful that better days are ahead.  Needless to say, Give Burns The Boot as we know it has been greatly affected, but not lost.  We turn our thoughts to new possibilities, such as a virtual boot drive and other creative ways to let Georgia know that we’re still here and still serving those affected by burns.

Thanks so much for your continued support!  We’re in this together and we pray that you and your families remain safe and well.


Venessa Walker
Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation
Help, hope and healing beyond the burn





Season’s Greetings from Dennis

As I reflect back over this past year, it seems like only yesterday that we were sharing in celebrations as the New Year arrived… and in the blink of an eye, it’s hard to believe we are quickly approaching the end of 2019!

The Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation (GFBF) was fortunate to experience another amazing year, in no small part, because of our outstanding cadre of volunteers, fire service partners, beneficial collaborations and generous donors all playing an important role in our accomplishments!

Because of your support, we were able to bring together 95 children for a week long residential camping program, providing “fun with a purpose” for children/siblings who’ve experienced burn injury & trauma; hosted a Burn Survivor Family Weekend providing an opportunity for 16 families to come together to support one another, connect through shared similar experiences and grow towards transformation and healing; collaborated with other agencies from California and New York to facilitate the Young Adult Burn Survivor Retreat bringing together more than 3 dozen young people to develop and strengthen peer support network; collaborations with Grady Hospital Burn Center, WellStar & JM Still Burn Center in providing ancillary support for aftercare programming; $65,000 in funding was distributed through the Give Burns the Boot incentive program & the Chesney Fallen Firefighters Memorial Grant to support fire departments’ safety education and prevention initiatives within their local communities.

As a burn survivor myself, I can personally attest to the fact that these invaluable resources continue to touch the lives of not only residents of Georgia, but also populations throughout the southeast. But there is still much work to be done, as we anticipation an even greater need to grow our base of support to increase the numbers served in the upcoming year.

My hope is that you please consider GFBF in your year-end giving plans. Donations, both large and small are deeply appreciated. You can make a secured online donation at www.gfbf.org. Please note: The Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation is a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization and your financial gift is tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. Please stand with us in our efforts to provide help, hope, and healing beyond the burn!

Unfortunately, the devastating effects of fire has touched countless lives over the years, and it is also understood that fire occurrences will continue to cause property loss, trauma, injury and death; in addition to the emotional and psychological toll on individuals and families. In response to this sad reality, GFBF remains committed to reaching more people and having an even greater impact in the years to come, so no one ever feels alone on their journey of recovery. And we are excited to share the upcoming launch of an e-newsletter to keep our community informed, up to date and share inspirational stories, be sure to sign up by clicking here


On behalf of the Board of Directors, Staff and those we serve, thank you for your support in helping us successfully fulfill the mission of GFBF to partner with the fire service and burn care community to provide fire safety and prevention education, support medical facilities and assist burn survivors in their recovery.

Wishing you and your family all the best this holiday season, as excitement builds for connection in 2020!


Dennis J. Gardin, Executive Director

Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation

Hole in One with Baldwin County Fire Rescue

Baldwin County Fire Rescue has participated in the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation’s Give Burns The Boot® campaign for over 10 years.  As a creative way to partner with GFBF, Baldwin County hosts annual tournament benefiting the GFBF with over $50,000 of donations over the past eight years!  Baldwin County’s new fire chief, Chief Victor Young says “One of the main reasons our tournament was started, was to assist the GFBF in their work with children at Camp Oo-U-La.  Some of our firefighters were privileged enough to visit Camp Oo-U-La and see how our donations have impacted children in their recovery.  We also wanted to assist the foundation with providing fire safety and prevention education, and supporting medical facilities for burn survivors”.

Each year Baldwin County Fire has around 100 players to turn out on the day of the tournament, and most of them play each year and always look forward to the next. They contribute the success of their tournament to the generosity of their local businesses and the tireless efforts of their tournament committee who spends numerous hours pounding the streets visiting businesses and making calls searching for the perfect prizes to draw in their golfers. “We look forward to a continued partnership with GFBF in all their future endeavors”, says Chief Young.

The GFBF is fortunate to have the support of so many wonderful fire departments across the state of Georgia.  It’s their partnership with the fire service that GFBF has served countless families and individuals for almost 40 years.

Fire departments interested in finding out how you can participate in the Give Burns The Boot® campaign or other fundraising events please contact Venessa Walker at vwalker@gfbf.org or (404) 320-6223.


A “club” we never signed up for

Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation’s Family Weekend 2019 is one our family will never forget. We stumbled upon this organization out of sheer desperation. We were mourning the family we were before Memorial Day 2019. Our son’s accident changed him both physically and mentally. As his physical wounds began to heal, the emotional scars began to emerge. I cried out for prayers. Shortly afterwards, we were given the link to GFBF. I immediately went to the site for help. I noticed an upcoming camp and quickly registered.

With great anticipation we ventured to Camp Twin Lakes. From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with warm smiles and many helping hands. We were finally able to take a breath and let the knowledgeable staff help us through this tough journey. We found families that had endured many years as burn survivors. That gave us hope that we would make it through. Our son was able to meet, talk, and play with other survivors his age with similar stories. The parent’s meeting was such a wonderful time to fellowship with the other attendees. We were even rewarded with an amazing candle making “date”, just Mom and Dad.

We are all a part of a “club” we never signed up for. The others knew what we were going through. They were able to encourage us. We met as strangers and left as family. We did not want the weekend to end. Our family looks forward to our next meeting. Many thanks to McKenzy and Dennis. Thank you for everything GFBF!

-Dana McClure