Courtney "Co-Co" Bennett with her fiance, Milton Notblkjustchocolate Spland

Courtney “Co-Co” Bennett with her fiance, Milton

Courtney Bennett’s scars help her connect with her patients.

Bennett, 26, works as a family life educator intern in Dallas as she finishes her master’s in family therapy. The scars from her burn injury often prompt questions from her young patients the first time they see her.

She tells the kids that she has scars that can be seen, but that others, maybe including them, have scars that can’t be seen. People go through things all the time, but they get through them, she explains. She encourages her clients to talk about their feelings.

She believes that her scars help her connect with clients and make her more effective. It is her gift.

Bennett was severely burned at age 17 in a house fire. She spent 10 weeks in the burn center at Parkland Memorial Hospital. A year later, she attended her first Angel Faces retreat, where she learned many of the social skills she uses today to navigate the world. She attended the retreat twice more, once as a mentor.

“I learned a lot,” she said of the Angel Faces retreat. “I learned not to worry about what other people say and how to handle the stares and questions. And that I am beautiful no matter what.”

They are beautiful no matter what. And they can have a career and family just like anyone else. The girls also learn how to see their trauma as a gift. A gift to use to help others through hard times. That is one of the most basic lessons girls learn at the retreats organized by Angel Faces, a nonprofit based in Encinitas, California.

Founded in 2003 by Lesia Cartelli, Angel Faces has retreats for adolescent girls and young women who have experienced burn and trauma injuries. Costs of the retreats are paid by donors. The 2016 retreat for 12 to 18 year old girls will be June 20-26 in Wolfeboro, NH. Applications are available at www.angelfaces.com.

Bennett certainly feels that her career and life is coming together wonderfully. She will receive her master’s degree in August and marry her sweetheart in October. She is already working full-time in her field.

She attributes most of her success to her family. Her dad’s most common saying is “never give up.”

“Even though it is painful, keep striving,” she quotes him as saying. “Pick up where you left off. Don’t give up.”

That is a message she’ll share with her clients. And that they are beautiful, scars and all.