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Giving severely burned girls a place to find strength

Jae C. Hong / AP

Anastaza Pack, 17, looks in the mirror as she puts on make-up at the Angel Faces retreat in Corona, Calif. Angel Faces is an annual retreat for young girls with severe burns or facial disfigurement that focuses on psychological healing through group counseling, role-playing, art therapy and workshops that teach coping skills.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Bethany Essary, 16, smiles while watching her friends get ready for a closing ceremony at the Angel Faces retreat in Corona, Calif., on June 22.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Oby Rodriguez chooses a hairstyle for a closing ceremony at the Angel Faces retreat in Corona, Calif., on June 22.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Larisa Hertz, left, and Bethany Essary look at a photo of themselves at the Angel Faces retreat in Corona, Calif., on June 22.

AP reports -- The room rings out with the cruel nicknames that have haunted the teenagers for years: Crusty crab. Burnt toast. Snake skin. Freddy Krueger's daughter. Mutant. Scarface.

For the first time, it's the burn victims themselves who are shouting them.

The exercise is emotionally excruciating but also empowering for these girls, who come from all over the world to attend Angel Faces, an annual retreat east of Los Angeles. Some were injured as infants; others arrive just months after a devastating accident. Several girls lost a parent or a sibling in the disaster that maimed them.

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Jae C. Hong / AP

Anastaza Pack, 17, puts on make-up at the Angel Faces retreat in Corona, Calif, on June 22.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Katelyn Schram, left, leans on volunteer Catrece Nosal while chatting at the Angel Faces retreat in Corona, Calif, on June 22.