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Hatrboro-Horsham High School Burn Victim Selected to Speak Friday

Senior Sean Canepa will address the Philadelphia Gala Benefiting the Burn Foundation.

Hatboro-Horsham senior has been invited to be a guest speaker at the 38th Annual Burn Foundation Gala in Philadelphia on Friday, where he will share his story about living with scars of burns that cover nearly half of his body and his quest to feel "normal" despite what makes him different.

Sean will share his own personal story, a account that was made public with a documentary he created last year called "Normal." The documentary was the second-place winner of the overall film contest.

In the documentary, he discusses the events leading up to the incident that left him with burns on 47 percent of his body. He recalls being a 5-year-old kid excited to spend an evening with his father at Chuck E. Cheese. The night ended in horror after both he and his father fell asleep in the car and awoke to flames and smoke caused by the vehicle's explosion.

Though Sean believes the incident was a terrible accident, his father Eduardo Canepa was charged with aggravated assault and other crimes as a result of the incident. He was later convicted and sentenced to prison.

Despite the differing explanations of how the explosion happened, Sean believe the fire was an accident and has focused instead on his efforts to recover from  and now live with - burns that have distorted his face, hands and other parts of his body. He went through seven surgeries in the first four days following the accident and said the months following it were "very dark."

He has attended camps for burn victims and hopes to use his experience to become a motivational speaker who will talk to young people about how he has been able to embrace what makes him different and feel "normal."

"If you can feel normal to yourself then you can really be happy, you can really feel comfortable. Once people are comfortable, anything's possible, and I just want to get that message out to people," he said in his documentary.

"We are very proud of Sean and his willingness to share his story and his ability to relate to his peers in such a positive, confident way," said Principal Dennis Williams. "He is a true role model, and any of our students - as well as anyone attending this Friday's gala - would be wise to listen to his story, which is an inspiration to any person who has ever felt different or challenged by the pursuit of life goals."

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