November 29, 2022
Once Jace Hollinger discovered forging, he watched videos and read everything he could about the ancient art of heating and hammering metal to make objects. He got his first forge in spring 2020 and started with knives and steak flippers.
When the 15-year-old from Cutler, Indiana, had to help a cause he felt strongly about for Junior National Honor Society, he made and sold fireplace pokers to benefit Hoosier Burn Camp. Between this project and items he made for a camp gala auction, Jace raised more than $2,000.
“He’s a middle child of four and an easygoing kid,” says his mother Stefany Hollinger. “But he’s pretty passionate about what he’s passionate about.”
That extends to the medical camp that partners with Riley Children’s Health, which Jace has attended each summer since his own burn injury at age 8. In 2015, he and his older brother were helping their dad burn trash outside their rural home when a combustible can exploded and ignited Jace’s clothing.
He was airlifted to Riley Children’s and over the next two weeks received skin grafts to his stomach and right leg. He spent many more months in outpatient treatment and wore compression garments for about 18 months.
Riley Child Life Specialist Caitlin Dougherty encouraged Jace to attend Hoosier Burn Camp that first summer. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to go,” Jace recalls. “But the counselors were great, and I’m friends with a lot of people there.”
“Something about connecting with all those kids,” Russ Hollinger says of the camp’s impact on his son. “I think it’s made him more conscious of people around him and their needs, and sympathetic toward other people’s problems.”
“His heart and desire to give back will make him a good Riley Champion,” Caitlin, who nominated Jace as a Champion, says. “We’ve seen that countless times at burn camp. He’s so encouraging to the other kids.”
In addition to being a camp regular, the sophomore at Carroll High School is an excellent student, three-sport athlete and willing role model for other youth. “I hope some little boy or girl sees me and thinks, ‘I can probably overcome something with a little determination,’” Jace says.