PHOENIX - Burn survivors from the Phoenix area are getting ready to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, but before that, they trained by hiking something a bit closer: Piestewa Peak.
The hike in Africa is all part of a campaign called Courage Rising, which aims to raise money for the new Arizona Burn Center.
Among those hiking is 12-year-old Isabella McCune, who is no stranger to tackling mountains. Even before she was setting off on hiking trails, McCune had to overcome plenty of obstacles.
"It was St. Patrick's Day of 2017, and a neighborhood gathering had a fire pit. My dad went to light it with a gas can, but the gas can did not have a flame rester, so the fume lit, went back into the can, and it exploded," said McCune.
65% of McCune's was burned as a result. She spent nine long months in the hospital.
"When it happened, I just went into shock, so I didn't feel anything, but I do remember at the hospital the pain all that I had to go through," McCune recounted.
Her days at the hospital brightened a little, thanks to a visit from her favorite singer, Taylor Swift.
"A bunch of security coming through the doors, then [Swift] came in my room, and I was just in shock," said McCune.
It has been five years since that fateful day, and McCune, along with several other burn survivors, are preparing for their hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.
The team has been preparing for the hike with training that involves hiking mountains across Arizona, from the Grand Canyon to Bear Mountain.
"Part of what we wanted to show was our burn community. Also, just what we can do if we band together," said Nate Lowrie with Valleywise Health Foundation. "We have people like Isabella really just showing us what it is like to live, fully even after something really traumatic."
McCune says spending time out in nature, as well as spending time with other burn survivors, helps her move forward. Just like climbing a mountain, she takes it one step at a time.
"I want to show people that no matter what you've been through or how hard it is, there are ways to distract yourself, get away from it," said McCune.
Arizona Burn Center
Courage Rising: https://valleywisehealthfoundation.org/courage-rising