Glendale Heights bonfire explosion burn victim wants to become burn unit nurse

LOMBARD (WLS) -- Nearly three weeks after a Glendale Heights bonfire explosion injured 12 students, one of the burn victims is talking about her road to recovery.

ABC 7 Chicago spent the day with a 15-year-old cheerleader to talk about her healing process ahead and how her experience is inspiring her to save lives.

Everywhere you look in Lombard, red ribbons are tied around trees down the street as far as the eye can see.

"I leave my house and see all like the red ribbons down the street and it's amazing," said burn victim Alyssa Wolff.

It's just one small part of what the community has done to support burn victims like 15-year-old cheerleader Wolff. She spent five days in the Loyola Medicine burn unit after a bonfire explosion nearly three weeks ago. That night, she says a friend poured gasoline into the fire and, "it just exploded. And it was like my whole entire...everything that I could see was just light."

Her best friend, another cheerleader, Korryn Bachner, was also severely burned. Her face is still wrapped in bandages.

That night, "my first instinct was to find my friends and help them if they were still on fire, hurt or still injured somewhere else," Wolff said.

When she found her friend Ivan Galarza, "he still had fire on him. He was still screaming. He was, I'm sure, still in pain and in shock," she said.

Ivan and another girl who was severely burned, Autumn Hamilton, are still in the hospital.

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A fundraiser for Hamilton's medical expenses was held at VFW Post 2377 Friday night.

A fundraiser for Hamilton's medical expenses was held at VFW Post 2377 Friday night.

But out of crisis comes clarity. Wolff says the explosion has given her life new purpose.

"I want to apply at Loyola University and then get into their nursing program and hopefully become a burn nurse at Loyola," she said.

She wants to work in the same burn unit that has been helping her heal.

Wolff's mother Dawn is thankful for all of the support from the community, and she is incredibly proud of her daughter.

"The only way I can come to terms with it all is to say everything happens for a reason, and this is Alyssa's reason, and she's going to go out there and help other people," Dawn Wolff said.

Alyssa just had an eye doctor appointment Friday afternoon and she still has 20/20 vision and her eyes were not damaged by the explosion.
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