School supply drive from 8am-5pm — Drop off donations at WQAD News 8

Galesburg burn survivor, Caper Brown, uses troubled past to inspire others to heal

INGLESIDE, Illinois-- It's a bond based on more than outdoor games and lunch time chants. At camp 'I am Me' in Ingleside, Illinois, just like their burns, the bond is permanent.

It's a week long summer camp for burn survivors. Everyone has a story to tell here, including camp counselor of 17 years, Capernicus Brown.

"I've got that survivor mentality, I really do," says Caper.

Caper was ten and his brother Joey was eight when the two young boys broke into a Galesburg scrap metal company across the street from where they lived. Inside they started playing around with a gas hose.

"We were spraying it around like a water gun. That's a quick description," remembers Caper.

And then, a nearby water heater ignited the fumes. The building exploded in flames with the two boys still inside.

"I don't remember where Joey was during the initial explosion, but I was dead center," says Caper.

98-percent of Caper's body suffered third-degree burns. His brother Joey had 26-percent of his body covered in burns as well.

"We were both in the emergency room. I remember looking over at him in the bed, and I was done, your blood, you're love," remembers Joey.

Joey is also a counselor at camp.

"He keeps me going. If he can do it, I can do it," says Joey.

Caper's doctors say it's a miracle he made it out alive.

"They told me I should have died multiple times," says Caper.

But he didn't.

"I want to keep going. I don't want to be someone who people say, oh the burns finally caught up to him. I want to be part of people's lives," says Caper.

And he is.

This survivor uses his past to help others heal on the inside. Just ask camper Johnathan Fox.

Caper and Johnathan are bound by their burns and their hometowns. Both boys grew up in Galesburg, Illinois.

Johnathan was three when he had his accident.

"I was trying to get on the counter to get in the cabinet to get my dad a coffee cup. And I fell into a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup," says Johnathan.

His long sleeved shirt formed to his body, leaving behind his burn.

As campers and counselors prepare to part ways, they think about the road ahead all while knowing wherever that road takes them, they'll always be connected to each other.

"Life is worth fighting for. Do the best to enjoy it," says Caper.

Caper plans to travel to Europe, California, and he plans on visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York City.

He also just finished writing his first book, "Soul Uncharred." Caper is having a signing event for his new book coming up on July 1, 2017 at For the Win bookstore in downtown Galesburg, Illinois. The event goes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.