Volunteers Go Virtual

Written on October 21, 2021

Phoenix Society’s work wouldn’t be possible without a loyal and hard-working community of volunteers. This past year has been full of barriers, with few opportunities to give back in person. But that didn’t stop these volunteers.

From Spanish translation to DJing a virtual dance party, the following individuals have found creative ways to use their unique skills and make a difference for survivors around the globe.

Margarita Rodriguez

Pasadena, California

Together with Phoenix SOAR Peer Supporter Jose Saez, Margarita moderated a Spanish-speaking session of Peer Support Chat and translate several key resources into Spanish.

What motivated you to give back in this way?

I work for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF). I also am a burn survivor, and attended Phoenix World Burn Congress for the first time in 2014 in Anaheim, CA. I decided to get involved with Phoenix Society in a different capacity in 2021, because I wanted to learn about the different programs and how I could contribute to burn survivors.

What impact do you hope to have on the burn community through your work?

I began a journey in 2019 to help the families in the Spanish-speaking community. I created a Spanish-speaking online support group for burn survivors, parents, and caregivers online in 2019. The group finally picked up in 2020 and is thriving in 2021. My hope is that Phoenix Society and AARBF can come together to improve and expand programming for the Latino community in Spanish and other languages.

Amber Wilcox

Ormond Beach, Florida

Amber Wilcox and her employer, SmartBug Media, volunteered to help make the Phoenix Society website easier to find for survivors who need our help.

What motivated you to give back in this way?

After I was burned in April 2020, my husband and I felt helpless. One evening, after pacing the house for several hours due to extreme itching, I started googling "Burn Injury Itching." An article in Phoenix Society’s Resource Center popped up, and though there wasn’t immediate relief, we finally felt heard. I am an "expert Googler" and spend my days on the internet for work. However, I knew others might give up after a single search that didn’t yield results. My workplace, SmartBug Media, had rolled out a non-profit initiative some years back, and I'd just never found the right partner or opportunity to make an impact. Phoenix Society was that partner for me.

What impact do you hope to have on the burn community through your work?

I hope we can get resources in the hands of survivors sooner rather than later. I want others to be able to find Phoenix Society as early as I did and know they're not alone. We're in this together, and if SmartBug's work can help increase the reach to just one more burn survivor who might not have known about these resources, that's a win.

Jeff Pelchat

Rehoboth, Massachusetts

Also known as “DJ Jeff,” Jeff Pelchat helped us make some magic with a Virtual Dance Party at Phoenix WBC 2020. He's back again for the 2021 event.

What motivated you to give back in this way?

I have been DJing at just about every Phoenix WBC since 2014! We were all very disappointed that the 2020 in-person conference was cancelled, but we all wanted to bring a piece of the party to the virtual conference. Megan Tinney (Program Manager) and the team brainstormed and made it happen! My wife Kathy got a photobooth involved and we had an amazing time!

What impact do you hope to have on the burn community through your work?

I know that music impacts the soul, and it always makes me happy to watch people come out of their shell when the music plays! The burn community is a very large part of our lives, and it makes my heart happy to be able to contribute like I do.

Rachael Sandler

Norwalk, Connecticut

Rachael Sandler has been volunteering with Phoenix Society for 16 years. She is putting her Phoenix SOAR Peer Supporter training to use as a moderator for Phoenix Society’s online Peer Support Chat.

What motivated you to give back in this way?

I originally got involved with Phoenix Society when I first started attending the online support group sessions in 2005 after my burn accident. The in-person support group at my local hospital only met every other month, so the online support group was an incredible resource for me as a new survivor. Soon after, I started attending Phoenix WBC and eventually became a trained Phoenix SOAR peer supporter. The online support group had such an impact on me as a young adult and new survivor that I knew I wanted to provide the same opportunity and support to others.

What impact do you hope to have on the burn community through your work?

I want other survivors to know that they are not alone in this journey, and that we—a whole group of chat moderators!—are here every Wednesday to connect and support each other as we move forward.

Join Peer Support Chat every Wednesday night from 9:00-10:30pm (EST) / 6:00-7:30pm (PST). Or in Spanish on the first Tuesday of each month from 9:00-10:30pm (EST) / 6:00-7:30pm (PST). Come for the whole session or drop in when you can!