Founded in 2003, Angel Faces® was created to transform the lives of adolescent girls with severe, permanent facial burns and disfigurements. Angel Faces’ mission at its inception focused on adolescent girls, ages 12-19, with facial disfigurements.

Girls make friendships during the retreat with girls who have similar issues and challenges.

The idea for and the development of the original three-day residential retreat evolved as a result of Lesia Cartelli’s severe burn injury and subsequent facial scarring at the age of nine in 1969. As an adult she recognized the unique psychosocial needs of adolescent girls with facial disfigurement as they navigate the developmental tasks of adolescence. Lesia has personally experienced the challenges of maturing as an adolescent and professionally witnessed as an adult the struggle the girls have with social interactions, making friends and simply “fitting in” that plague adolescent girls who live with facial disfigurement.

Lesia Cartelli’s experience, as director of a burn camp she developed in San Diego, led to her awareness of the need and inspiration for something more. She created an intensive retreat focusing on educating adolescent girls with burn/trauma injuries and teaching ways to successfully handle life’s challenges. Through her own personal experience, Lesia also realized the strong need to teach the girls about setting goals and boundaries (including emotional, physical, social, personal, sexual, and spiritual boundaries) which are vulnerable areas to a teenage girl with a disfigurement who will do anything to “fit in.”

As she explained in her book, Heart of Fire, Lesia felt the presence of angels in the hospital after she was first injured — and she felt that she saw the angels again in the terribly scarred faces of three little girls at the burn camp.  That is where the name “Angel Faces” came from.

The bond of friendship is extended year-round through our Angels in Flight program, an online program that keeps the girls connected via social media and Skype.

Over the years the retreat was expanded to seven days. In early 2011 the mission statement of Angel Faces was revised to focus specifically on adolescent girls with burn or traumatic injuries. This change of focus was due to a combination of factors: the program’s recognized core competency of helping girls transform and heal from traumatic injuries; a growing observation that the program curriculum more effectively reached girls with trauma-related injuries than girls with non-trauma related facial disfigurements; and the visible and positive reputation within the burn and trauma community.

‘A soft place to fall, a solid foundation for growth.’


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