(UPDATE: The Burn Camp fundraiser basketball game scheduled for tonight – March 12 – has been moved to 7 p.m. Monday, March 17)
Branden Dugan is being celebrated as an honorary member of the Mentone Fire Department. The 13-year-old Tippecanoe Valley middle schooler has become somewhat of an adopted son to the firefighters.
As an infant, Branden was burned in a house fire that left the right side of his body scarred. The Mentone Fire Department, and specifically training officer Brandon Cody who also coaches baseball at Tippecanoe Valley High School, decided to this year focus on sending the local boy to Hoosier Burn Camp.
Donating funds to Hoosier Burn Camp “is something we, as a department, and the Kosciusko County Fire Association do every year anyway,” said Mentone firefighter Matt Cohagan. “But this year, instead of just sending a donation to the camp and they decide who goes, we decided to send Branden.”
It was Cody’s involvement in the schools that led him to Branden. Events such as the Kids Night Out hosted through the schools, was something Branden often attended.
Founded in 1997, Hoosier Burn Camp is a summer camp for children who have suffered trauma from burn injuries. The camp offers the usual summer camp activities such as fishing, canoeing, swimming, crafts, archery and games.
Branden said he is excited about camp and looking forward to taking part in the games and events, including one particular game called Capture the Flag. The athletic seventh-grader plays football, among other sports, and describes the war-themed game as something he is anxious to play.
To raise the $1,000 necessary to send Branden to Hoosier Burn Camp, the Mentone Fire Department has gotten together a team of firefighters from Mentone, Burket and Akron who will take on the Lake City Radio Hoopsters in a benefit game on Wednesday. The game is being held at Tippecanoe Valley High School and is free to attend, but freewill donations toward Branden’s camp experience are encouraged.
Doors to the game open at 6 p.m. with the tip off starting at 7 p.m. Half-time events will include hoop shooting contests for one lucky youth and one adult to win prizes donated by Lake City Bank.
Branden himself was provided his official team T-shirt at the Mentone Fire Department Thursday night and told he’ll be the starting guard for the fire department team. (See video)
Tax deductible donations to help send Branden to camp are being accepted by the Mentone Fire Department. Cohagan said the goal is $1,000 for Branden’s fee, but the more money collected, the more children they will be able to sponsor. “We’re trying to get this thing started this year and our minimum goal is $1,000,” explained Cohagan, “but if we can raise $5,000, that’s five kids we can send.”
Checks for donations may be made out to Hoosier Burn Camp and mailed to the Mentone Fire Department, P.O. Box 147, Mentone, IN 46539.