Lehigh Valley, PA (Oct. 1, 2019) – An off-duty firefighter and an emergency medical technician, who found themselves in the middle of a catastrophic motor vehicle accident, and a 13-year-old girl, who saved her sister and her dog, were two of the people honored during the 14th Annual Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Awards Celebration held at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg in Bethlehem, PA. The event recognized eight first responders and everyday citizens for acts of heroism or commitment to burn education. A burn survivor who has made it her life’s work to help other survivors, especially children, also was recognized.
The honorees and nearly 800 guests were joined by a special guest speaker, Greg Stube, former Green Beret and Afghanistan war veteran who suffered severe burns and injuries during battle, who inspired the audience with his story of survival and triumph.
The Spirit of Courage award program was started locally by the Burn Prevention Network in partnership with Valley Preferred and Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to recognize persons who have risked their lives to save others from a fire. The program also recognizes individuals and groups who have done an outstanding job promoting fire safety or burn prevention education.
Valley Preferred, a provider-led, preferred provider organization, sponsors the program to raise public awareness about burn safety and to recognize people who put others ahead of themselves. “The people we are honoring this year demonstrate incredible bravery and the potential we all have to make a difference,” said Valley Preferred Executive Director Mark Wendling, MD. “These heroes exist in every community, and Valley Preferred is proud to be part of something that recognizes that.”
Burn Prevention Network Executive Director Dan Dillard said this event brings together first responders, health care professionals, life-safety educators, and others to solve difficult and costly community challenges. It helps fund specialized training for firefighters, support programs for burn survivors, and training for 800,000 children every year in fire safety and burn prevention practices. “We are guided by our vision of working with partners and communities to create a world without burns,” he said.
Among the awardees was ABA Trustee and BOT Member, Liz Dideon-Hess, who received the Walter J. Okunski Phoenix Award at this event.
Elizabeth Dideon Hess
Licensed clinical social worker and co-director, Camp Susquehanna
Liz Dideon Hess is a burn survivor who has immeasurably touched the lives of other survivors and families. She has made it her mission to help survivors learn to cope with their new reality and to thrive. Hess was a college student studying social work when she was burned in 2003. As a college athlete now in a wheelchair, she faced the same debilitating doubts and fears as other burn survivors. After completing an internship at Lehigh Valley Health Network Regional Burn Center, she followed her heart to become the first Burn Center social worker. During her eight years in this position, she created numerous programs to support survivors and their loved ones as well as Burn Center staff. She initiated the peer support program SOAR (Survivors Offering Aid in Recovery) and a monthly support group to help survivors understand and learn coping strategies for situations they may encounter. She started the burn survivor holiday party to help survivors and families celebrate their accomplishments and enjoy a festive event. She created the Great Balls of Fire Dodgeball Tournament to help send families to the Phoenix Society World Burn Congress every year. Much of her work has been directed toward helping children gain confidence and acceptance. Through the back-to-school program she helps prepare children to return to school and their pre-burn lives. As co-director of Camp Susquehanna, she has helped create a rare environment where children ages 6 to 17 can feel loved and accepted, learn tools for facing everyday challenges, build self-esteem, and enjoy summertime fun in a safe environment. Now in private practice, Hess continues to touch the lives of survivors and loved ones, and use her experiences to heal, strengthen and grow those around her.