GARDEN GROVE — Joshua Rans, 5, stared at the ponies carrying children as he sucked one of his thumbs and used his other hand to adjust the pink balloon circle around his head.
Seeing the animals head back to the pony ride starting point, the Fountain Valley boy ran toward them and said jubilantly, "I'm burned but I don't feel it (anymore), so I can ride."
Joshua, who suffered major burns June 29 after igniting his T-shirt with a lighter, on Saturday attended his first summer picnic for burn survivors, their families, the firefighters who helped rescue them and the medical professionals who treated them. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Garden Grove Park, they munched on hot dogs and had fun under cloudy skies at the picnic sponsored by the Orange County Burn Assn.
"Usually the weather is so gorgeous. I'm hoping this was not a deterrent for people," said Sue Cronin, the organization's executive director. Attendance at the last six picnics has ranged from 150 to 300, she said. By 12:30 p.m. Saturday, there were about 100 people.
The annual picnic provides support in an informal setting for burn victims and their families, she said.
Because of the victims' scars, Cronin said, "when they go out in normal settings they're stared at. The picnic makes them more relaxed and helps build their self-esteem."
Besides the pony rides, there were clowns twisting balloons into animal shapes and, of course, shiny fire trucks ready to be explored. A food wagon stood nearby complete with hot dogs, ice cream bars and soft drinks.
As 7-year-old Chris Gray joined other children trying out equipment on a red fire truck, his guardian, Donna Winston, watched from below and took pictures.
"I've taken this kid to many picnics and he's been bored," but there was plenty to keep him busy at this one, said Winston, whose husband does volunteer work for the burn association.
It was Chris' first time at the annual picnic, but 7-year-old Brian Kramer, a Dana Point boy who was burned several years ago and whose legs still carry scars, has attended once before.
Brian had two words for what he expects from the event: "Make friends."