Cleburne High School freshman Callie Jarmon will be in the nation’s capital this week as a participant in the International Association of Fire Fighters Foundation International Burn Camp.
Jarmon, who at the age of 21 months suffered third and fourth degree burns over 45 percent of her body when the vehicle in which she was a passenger caught fire, is among selected students from across the United States and Canada, chosen for the significant contributions they have made to their local burn camp program.
In Callie’s case, it’s Parkland Burn Center’s Camp I-Thonka-Chi, which she has attended every summer since the age of six. Carrolton Fire Rescue Administrative Chief Debbie Carpenter, who served as Callie’s camp counselor in her younger days, describes Jarmon as an ambassador for those attending Camp I-Thonka-Chi for the first time.
“Many of the children who come to the Parkland Burn Center Camp are recent burn victims and/or new to the camp program,” Carpenter said. “They are extremely self-conscious and not sure if they will fit in and be comfortable. Callie is the first to welcome them, the first to introduce herself. She teaches them self-confidence and reflects the fun of camp--and how fun it can be for them if they drop some of those feelings and embrace their life as it is now.”
Callie’s mother, Jennifer Stoneman, said they first experienced Camp I-Thonka-Chi as Family Day visitors prior to her daughter turning six, making her eligible for the week-long summer program held at the Camp John Marc facilities near Meridian.
“We loved it,” she said. “It gave Callie the opportunity to learn all about the program and what to expect. She’s never missed a year of camp since. Only children who were treated at the Parkland Burn Center attend the camp, which offers all kinds of activities. It’s so nice—it’s the one week of the year where Callie is with people like her. But I think for Callie, her time at camp is more about helping others than being helped.”
Carpenter affirms that, noting from that first camp experience with Callie, she was inspired by Jarmon’s independent spirit.
“She was in my cabin the first three to four years she attended,” Carpenter said. “I fell in love with her independent spirit. The campers I work with are not only burn victims—they are little kids. They typically want our help, but Callie chose to dress herself, got her bathing suit on without any help. She took care of herself, while looking out for others as an encourager.”
Stoneman says she has received numerous “Callie stories” from camp counselors and others who have witnessed and experienced her daughter’s inspiring ways.
“I get stories every year about how she’s inspiring others,” Stoneman said. “There are kids at camp who sustained burns as teenagers and are still learning how to cope and deal with the situation and its issues. I was so excited when I got the phone call inviting Callie to the International Burn Camp. It will be an awesome opportunity for her to get to do this. She’ll meet people from all over the United States and Canada. She’ll be helping kids she doesn’t even know about just by being herself.”
Among those with a “Callie story” is Carpenter, who will be accompanying Jarmon to Washington D.C. Carpenter is among the fire fighters who has been invited to the event for her contributions to the Parkland Burn Camp as a volunteer.
“In our down time, we would paint our nails, or do crafts during quiet time,” Carpenter said. “During the 2011 camp when Callie was seven, she painted my nails, which also involved a lot of glitter. Right after camp ended, I left for a four-day canoe race which was going to be very physically challenging.”
“Callie was awestruck that anyone would be tempted to be in a canoe for 100 hours. She told me ‘you can do this.’ Any time I got tired and grumpy, I looked down at my somewhat messy, glittery nail polish and remembered Callie’s words to me: ‘you never know what you can do until you do it.’ Words from a seven-year-old. I completed that four-day race—I finished it and I will always believe that the glittery nail polish got me through.”
Callie may be taking her own advice, as she admits to some nerves on being gone for a week to a camp a little farther away than what she has been used to.
“I’m kind of nervous—this camp is far away,” she said. “My camp has always been an hour away. But it’s exciting to get to go on a plane and to meet lots of new people. I don’t know a lot about Washington D.C. so I will probably come back knowing a lot more. It would be cool to see the White House.”
Seven days of educational activities and enjoyment are promised to campers invited to the event. Guided tours of historic sites, several Smithsonian museums, prominent monuments and a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy are on the itinerary along with the laying of a wreath at the Arlington National Cemetery.
While she will be in new surroundings with new people, those who know her best can vouch for the fact that Callie will be a happy camper.
“She always stays the same,” her mother said. “She’s so positive. She’s inspiring when she doesn’t even try to be. She’s also very confident with who she is. When she was younger she worried about becoming a teenager, but she’s arrived with her same joy and confidence.”
After two years as a Smith Middle School cheerleader, Callie chose to be an athletic trainer in her first year of high school.
“After being a manager for all the sports at Smith, I wanted to be a trainer this year,” she said. “I like the program, and just being helpful. If someone hurts themselves, I know what to do because of being in this class.”
Jarmon chose agriculture science as her career pathway due to course offerings in veterinary technology and related instruction. She has always wanted to be a veterinarian. When she passes the age limit at 18, she also hopes to serve as a counselor at Camp I-Thonka-Chi (Choctaw translation-a place that makes one strong or fearless, not afraid to face life).
With Callie’s personality, character and years as a camper, Carpenter thinks that is a great next step.
“She has the personality and energy to be a camp counselor,” Carpenter said. “She is so good at including people, bringing them in. Her welcoming and joyful personality makes you want to be around her. She would make a remarkable counselor.”
After years of telling her story, and having her story told, Callie is pondering a new and additional aspect for her life.
“I have actually thought about being a motivational speaker,” she said. “I also like writing, so a book might be cool. I think if I had the opportunity to speak to others I would tell my story and more. I would tell them to stay positive in life, to live life and not care about what others say.”
“It’s important to be positive. Even if you are having a bad day, look at the positive things about your life—you woke up, you got to work on time—there’s a lot of things to be positive about.”
“I have a favorite quote that goes along with 1 John 4:4,” she said. “’The Lord is greater than the giants you face.’ It used to be on the lock screen of my phone. On the second Sunday of each month we kids at 1st Mount Zion take over the church service and this is something I like to share.”
The camp counselor who witnessed Callie’s ability at an early age in facing down giants, while inspiring others to do the same, thinks whatever Jarmon does in her life, it will be remarkable.
“Her story is inspiring and her spirit is memorable,” Carpenter said. “Her circumstances have never held her back, but instead have given her the strength and character not usually seen in teens, let alone adults. Callie is an inspiration.”
Callie Jarmon, second from left, poses with fellow student trainers before the start of Thursday’s freshman football game. The Cleburne High School freshman will be in Washington D.C. this week after receiving an invitation to the International Association of Fire Fighters Foundation International Burn Camp involving students across the United States and Canada.