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Burned teen girls journey on their road to recovery

On June 23, 2014, Manalapan health Examiner Stacey Chillemi interviewed Lesia Cartelli a survivor of a serious burn injury, which burned over 50% of her face and body at the age of nine. Cartelli shares with us about an organization she created called Angel Faces that has helped millions of girls like her who have endure a serious burn injury.

The Angel Face Retreat
used with permission from The Angel Face Retreat

For young girls with severe and permanent disfigurement from burns or other traumatic injuries, the cruelty of the world can be almost unbearable. The stares, name-calling, teasing and cruelty of others create a sort of living hell for this special group of survivors. Lesia Cartelli knows this is true, because she lived through it herself. Her desire to heal from a serious burn injury over 50% of her face and body at the age of nine in a natural gas explosion encouraged her to create Angel Faces for girls who suffer similar disfiguring burns and other traumatic injuries. This year, the retreat is in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire on June 15-21, 2014. It is the first year that the retreat is on the East Coast.

During the multi-day, intensive retreat, survivors hear first-hand from Cartelli about her injuries and the long road to recovery. The young girls work closely with licensed therapists to share and explore ways to facilitate emotional healing and meet others with similar struggles. They learn to use new tools that will help them increase their self-esteem, decrease their depressive symptoms, and have a better quality of life. Most important of all, they are given hope that they can create the life they desire through empowerment.

"The retreat is only one small component,” Cartelli explains. "We see the fruits of our labor when the girls go back home. We receive several calls and emails from the parents and medical centers about how confident and content their daughter/patient is since she has returned -- she joined a sports or academic team at school or now is going to prom, or interviewing for a first job, ending their social death.”

This year the girls are coming from San Diego, Houston, Galveston, Miami, Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee, and New York.

Angel Faces® is a national not-for-profit organization, headquartered in Encinitas, California, whose mission is to provide healing retreats and ongoing support for adolescent girls and young women with severe and permanent disfigurement from burn/trauma injuries to achieve their optimum potential and develop meaningful relationships for themselves, their families, and their communities.

The unique retreats and aftercare programs focus on the healing process within a holistic framework of mind, heart, and spirit. In addition to art therapy and private, corrective-cosmetic sessions, the program provides licensed therapists to help the girls through their loss and trauma issues, and provides the girls with strategies to handle staring and teasing. The goal of Angel Faces® is to offer a physical, spiritual, and emotional transformation so each girl walks away with a new confidence and a hopeful outlook toward the future with the skills to be excited about their life.

"Angel Faces® really changed my life. I feel more confident about leaving the house, going to the pool, meeting new people, going to water parks, and putting my hair up — showing more of my scars and that I don't have an ear...I learned how to communicate with people when they ask, "What happened to your?"…This retreat will help me a lot. I really feel changed. Even my family and friends noticed. Thank you all so much for what you have done to help me in my life." Adriana, 13 years old.

For more information, please visit the Angel Faces website at

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