angel faces burn institute

Renew Yourself with Cartelli's Heart of Fire

Thursday, March 12, 2015 Cora

When traumatic events touch our lives, the pain and challenges can destroy us or help us become the people we are meant to be. Author, speaker, and Angel Faces founder Lesia Cartelli survived a natural gas leak fire when she was nine years old. It left her fifty percent covered in burns and to face the world as different. Her book Heart of Fire: An Intimate Journey of Pain, Love and Healing shares her journey that caused her to be the change she wanted to see in the world, from the fire, growing up, facing her fear of fire, and creating her charity Angel Faces, an international nonprofit that creates retreats and ongoing support for young women with severe burn/traumatic injuries.

Inspired by the young women she works with, seeing them come to her wanting to change, Cartelli wrote her book to further share her story and help people who were not able to attend retreats. "Seeing these girls push through their pain, I wanted to give something to people who didn't have the requirements to come to the retreats,” Cartelli says. Because, as you'll see, Cartelli feels pain is pain; no pain is greater or worse. If you have fear, a Cartelli helps you face it. Some interesting challenges arose while writing the book. “She says, ‘There’s a part missing from your book and the reader is going to notice.’” Cartelli recalls. “The age of the girls I had created the retreat for, ages 12 through 19! That whole painful time in your life you need to talk about.” Those are challenging years rampant with insecurity for any one in any situation. From bodies changing, finding yourself, to being concerned about your looks and what everyone thinks, add in having your face being covered with scars. Cartelli shares how she learned we teach people how to treat us, how you behave comes back to you. She found if she was nice to other girls, they’d be nice to her. “I really dug in and I think it really makes the book,” she adds. “Because I show the reader pain is pain.”
Cartelli’s vulnerability provides an intimate look at her life showing all the factors she weathered. Stories from her young adulthood are harrowing, but inspirational in how she handles them. You would think in today’s day and age, people would look beyond physical appearance and focus on merit. But Cartelli shows how a disappointment leads her to work with the Burn Institute which is a launching pad for the rest of her life. She decided to face her fear of fire because she couldn’t ask the children she worked with to be fearless if there was still something haunting her. After a chance meeting with a fire chief, he worked with her, to “show her how to put out the fires so she wouldn’t be afraid anymore,” and led her into a controlled burn room, where she was surrounded in flames. “It was such a freeing feeling,” she said of facing her fear. (Fun fact: she’s now married to that fire chief!)
She created Angel Faces to fill a need, not just help the girls heal, but also not waste their pain, help them create something and learn from it. They do everything they can to make the retreats possible for the girls to attend and are looking for a corporate sponsor to make this even more possible. Everything happens for a reason. We may not learn that reason right away. It was a meaningful book and interview for me because this week is my anniversary of surviving my Traumatic Brain Injury. Doctors told my parents I’d be a vegetable. I’d never walk, talk, or eat on my own again. Well, I have. With time I have been able to see the gifts the event has given me, like causing me to go to community college first and meet my best friend. For more about Cartelli and her book Heart of Fire, visit her website at

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