Blackbird of Calistoga's Valentine's thank you to First Responders

Blackbird of Calistoga's Valentine's thank you to First Responders included chocolate samples by K+M chocolates.

Update: The original version of this story reported an estimate of donation which was an early estimate. The amount contribution was $1,300.

The October fires so moved Nancy Putney-Abernathy that when she learned from her neighbor about the Firefighters Burn Institute she arranged a fundraiser for the organization at her store.

Putney-Abernathy, owner of Blackbird of Calistoga, turned the Feb. 10 Valentine’s fundraiser into an event to thank first responders with love, and a little chocolate and wine.

She invited K+M chocolates to offer tastings of their unique blend of dark and milk chocolate combined with extra-virgin olive oil as conceived by Thomas Keller and Armando Manni, and Genevieve Welsh poured wine from Rivers-Marie, the wine label that she and Thomas Rivers Brown own.

“The response was fantastic,” Putney-Abernathy said of the Saturday turnout.

In addition to the chocolate and wine tasting, she donated 20 percent of sales from the entire day, and sold Johnny Was scarves, which were donated by the Johnny Was company, for $75 apiece. The scarves retail at stores like Neiman Marcus for $95, she said. The company donated 15 and by late Saturday she had sold six. As the remaining scarves sell, that money will be donated to Firefighters Burn Institute.

Through sales and a fireman’s boot cash collection, Putney-Abernathy donated about $1,300 to the organization, turning over the money to Mike Daw, executive director of the nonprofit, who drove from Sacramento to attend the event with his friend, Kim Suenram, a retired firefighter and the neighbor who told Putney-Abernathy about the organization.

Daw, also a retired firefighter, said of all the good things the Firefighters Burn Institute – which supports firefighters and any burn survivor — does with its limited budget he would love to expand the children’s camp programs.

“Burns don’t” know about “socioeconomics,” Daw said.

Held each year at Camp Arroyo in Livermore, the programs are designed to support burn survivors and their families.

“I’d love to get a big donor to fund my kids’ camps,” he said. But firefighters are not good at asking for money, he said.

The Little Heroes Preschool Burn Camp is designed for preschool burn survivors ages 3 to 6 years old and their families. At the camp they have an opportunity to meet and socialize with other burn survivors who are facing similar challenges.

When a child is recovering from burns and has a sibling, the unharmed sibling may feel left out because of the attention demanded by the recovery process for the burn survivor, Daw said. The Little Heroes program includes a Sibling Program that provides therapeutic recreational activities for older children and a daycare for infants and toddlers.

The Adult Program supports and educates parents and caregivers who are learning to care for and nurture a child who has suffered serious burns.

The Firefighters Kids Camp is a program held annually to benefit burn survivors ages 6 to 17 with activities that are fun and safe for burn survivors while helping them to heal both physically and emotionally. Some of the activities include arts and crafts, outdoor sports such as bicycling, hiking and swimming.

The program is supported by a volunteer staff of firefighters, burn care professionals, adult burn survivors, nurses, mental health specialists and trained recreational leaders.

The burn unit is used constantly, Daw said, with patients flown in from all around the region, not just Sacramento or the North Bay.

Following a 1972 accident when a plane crashed into a Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor in Sacramento, Sacramento Fire Captain Cliff Haskell and the Sacramento Area Fire Fighters Local 522 formed the Firefighters Burn Institute in 1973. They established a local burn treatment facility that provides not only recovery programs for burn survivors, but also prevention and education outreach and support for burn treatment and rehabilitation research.

For information about the Firefighters Burn Institute and how to donate, go to


The Weekly Calistogan Editor