Sandra Harmsen-Clark: Supporting burn survivors’ recovery


September 12, 2017

Burn survivors not only have to deal with their physical injuries, but they also have to face psychological effects as well. Sandra Harmsen-Clark and her husband have found a way to help by volunteering at the Arizona Burn Foundation.

Harmsen-Clark, benefits manager for Cognosante, focuses on two efforts at the foundation: Camp Courage and the annual Holiday Festival of Trees. This is her fifth year as a volunteer for the organization.

The purpose of Camp Courage, begun in 1991, is to address the emotional needs of children who have suffered severe burn injuries. Each year, about 80 young burn survivors from around Arizona attend this therapeutic camp. Thanks to support from donors, the Arizona Burn Foundation offers this camp at no charge.

Sandra Harmsen-Clark at Camp Courage

“We dress silly and just make the kids have a great time,” Harmsen-Clark says. “[We] help them forget about all the pain they have in their lives, even if it is only for a week.” Recovery is challenging for young burn survivors, who have multiple surgeries as they age because their scars don’t stretch and grow with them.

Harmsen-Clark also raises money and purchases hydration packs for each child at the camp. “Burn survivors have a harder time staying hydrated, and we want to be sure the kids have water with them at all times,” she says.

Sandra Harmsen-Clark at the Holiday Festival of Trees

The Holiday Festival of Trees is Harmsen-Clark’s other major commitment. Each year, the Arizona Burn Foundation begins the holiday season, typically during the first week of December, with this festive alternative to the traditional company holiday party. It features professionally designed and decorated holiday trees, wreaths, and other items, which are auctioned off, with the proceeds supporting programs for the burn survivor community.

“My husband and I start on Friday with the setup of the trees and work the event on Saturday night,” she says. [We] coordinate the delivery of the trees to the winning bidders at home or the office. These trees can go anywhere from $4,000 to $60,000 at auction.” Local firefighters deliver the trees on Sunday morning.