Team Phoenix Chicago - Millayna and Sarah’s Stories

Team Phoenix - Chicago is getting ready to race to the finish line on Sunday, October 12, 2014! Two of the runners this year, Millayna Klingback and Sarah Bazey, are burn survivors running their first marathons and we'd like to share their stories with you.

Seven years ago, Millayna Klingback was severely burned when her kitchen caught on fire after a pan containing cooking oil burst into flames. Her feet, hands, legs, and right arm were burned. Local hospitals in Spokane, Washington, couldn't provide the care she needed, so she was transferred via med-star flight to a burn unit at Harbor View Hospital in Seattle where she spent 28 days recovering.

Today, after weeks of training, Klingback is getting ready to travel to Chicago to run for TEAM PHOENIX, a group of runners participating in the Chicago Marathon to raise awareness and money for The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. This will be her first marathon.

While recovering, she learned about The Phoenix Society (http://www.phoenix-society.org) when searching online for other burn survivors’ stories. The Phoenix Society works with survivors, families, healthcare professionals, the fire industry and donors to support burn recovery, improve the quality of burn care, and prevent burn injuries. It is the only national nonprofit organization that helps survivors meet their challenges with the community support and the tools they need to thrive again.

The Phoenix Society helped Klingback find hope as she read other survivors success stories and it gave her a place where she belonged. It was comforting to know that help was available as she began her emotional healing, which was in many ways harder than the physical healing.

“I turned 30 years old this year and knew I wanted to run a marathon,” says Klingback. “I also knew I wanted to give something back. I was so happy to see The Phoenix Society listed as an option for the Chicago Marathon. I knew it was meant to be!”

Running a marathon for the average individual is a tough enough feat, but Klingback sees it as her way to give back to other burn survivors and celebrate overcoming her injuries.

 “At one point when I was in the hospital, my doctors told me that I may develop webbing between my fingers and toes, which would make walking painful and running possibly out of the question,” says Klingback. “Well that didn’t happen. I’m so excited to be part of this team.”

People who would like to support Millayna and The Phoenix Society can make a donation at: http://www.active.com/donate/teamphoenixchicago14/millayna


October 2014 will mark 20 years since the helicopter crash that changed Sarah Bazey’s life. She was flying in a helicopter over a highway construction site her company supplied materials for when the helicopter crashed and exploded. Bazey remained belted inside and experienced severe burns over 40 percent of her body.

On October 12th, Bazey will be running her first marathon for TEAM PHOENIX, a charity team running the Chicago Marathon to raise awareness and money for the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.

At the time of the helicopter crash, Bazey was 28 years old and engaged to be married. She was a former competitive figure skater and pageant titleholder, which meant she was accustomed to being judged on appearance.

“Not only did my burn injuries take away my physical ability to skate for several years, but I would spend the next 16 years worrying about my appearance and hiding my scars,” Bazey said.

Training and running a marathon can be challenging for anyone. And burns are one of the worst injuries the human body can experience, so running a marathon can be extra challenging for a burn survivor.

“Approximately 40 percent of my body is grafted, therefore, I have no ability to sweat in those areas, making it more challenging to regulate my body temperature,” says Bazey. “Another 40 percent of my body has donated skin, which for me includes my legs from my ankles to my hips, meaning I have less elasticity and ability for the skin to maintain proper flow of fluids. Despite those challenges, my training has gone well and I feel good about marathon day.”

 As part of her own recovery process, Bazey volunteered to meet burn patients and their family members at Regions Burn Center in St. Paul to help them with their recovery process. It was then that she learned about The Phoenix Society and was formally trained to be a Phoenix SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) volunteer.

“As a Phoenix SOAR volunteer, not only do I try to help and connect with burn patients and their loved ones, but selfishly I find the experience often therapeutic and healing,” says Bazey.

After years of worrying about her appearance, Bazey found the strength to overcome her fears by competing in the Mrs. International Pageant. She won the title in 2012. As Mrs. International, she spent a year traveling the world, meeting with members of the burn community in cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila, Sydney, London, and Istanbul. In total, she has visited 17 countries, as well as cities across the United States.

Bazey has also served on the Advisory Board for the Phoenix Society and now the National Board of Directors.

Bazey decided to run the marathon after talking to Peg Paul, TEAM PHOENIX coordinator and participant. Paul also serves on the Board and talked about how gratifying it was to run a marathon for a charity team.

“I never really thought about running a marathon until talking to Peg. Not only am I personally excited to be on this crazy journey, but also to run in support of an organization for which I have so much faith and respect makes membership on TEAM PHOENIX a no-brainer,” she said.

“Joining a team that raises awareness, funding, and general support for an organization that does so much good for so many is simply awesome! The staff at the Phoenix Society exemplifies dedication, the leadership at the board level is committed in every regard, and our members understand that being a part of the larger burn community makes each of us special. Whether we joined because we were burned, because a loved one was hurt, or because we care for and/or about those who have been burned...we are all in it together,” says Bazey.

If you would like to support Sarah and the Phoenix Society, donations can be made at Sarah’s personal webpage: http://www.active.com/donate/teamphoenixchicago14/sarahbazey

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