Annual Awards Recognize Service to Phoenix Society, Burn Community

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At the recent Phoenix World Burn Congress Anaheim, California, the recipients of three Phoenix Society awards were recognized for their significant contributions to the Society and the greater burn community.

At the recent Phoenix World Burn Congress Anaheim, California, the recipients of three Phoenix Society awards were recognized for their significant contributions to the Society and the greater burn community.

Karen Badger
Alan and Delwyn Breslau Award

Karen Badger is the 2014 recipient of the Alan & Delwyn Breslau Award, the highest distinction The Phoenix Society can bestow. She was selected for her “enthusiastic and visionary service” to the Phoenix Society and the burn community, says Society President Patrick Horan. He described her dedication to the Phoenix Society “from being an integral part of the SOAR program as it relates to the fire service, to her efforts evaluating the efficiency of Phoenix Society program” as being “appreciated and admired by the entire organization.”

Karen, who is a social worker with 25 years of experience, as well as the associate dean of social work and assistant provost of undergraduate education at the University of Kentucky, brings the unique perspective of a researcher, mental health provider, and administrator to her work with the organization. On behalf of the Phoenix Society, she has collaborated with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Charitable Foundation and National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to adapt the Phoenix SOAR peer support program to better meet the needs of the fire service. She has been involved in the Phoenix World Burn Congress, developing and leading sessions, as well as working with the Phoenix Society and the fire service partners to expand WBC offerings specifically for the fire service and their families. She has worked with Phoenix Society to construct and carry out a needs assessment after The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island and evaluations of programs, such as SOAR, Journey Back, and UBelong. She has partnered with the Phoenix Society to present initiatives at national conferences and other forums. She has been a frequent contributor to Burn Support News (now Phoenix Burn Support Magazine). She has also served as a member of the Aftercare Reintegration Committee--a joint effort of the American Burn Association (ABA) and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.

Recognizing Karen’s numerous contributions that have not only significantly enhanced the ability of the Society to fulfill its mission but also enhanced the greater burn community, the Phoenix Society president thanked her for her years of work, tireless devotion, and inspirational leadership.

Brien Dews
The Harman Philanthropic Leadership Award

Brien Dews is the recipient of the 2014 Harman award, presented by the Phoenix Society’s board of directors to an individual or family, corporation, foundation or service organization with a proven record of exceptional generosity through direct financial support and/or volunteer effort.

Although Brien may describe himself as a “reluctant participant” at his first Phoenix WBC in 2001, it wasn’t long before he was an avid Phoenix Society supporter. In fact, by the next year he had organized the first of what has become an annual event, Buses by the Beach, through which Volkswagen (and other) van enthusiasts raise money for the Phoenix Society. Over the past 12 years, the Michigan-based group has combined Volkswagen-style camping with fundraising at annual gatherings that draw enthusiasts from throughout the US and Canada. Since its inception Buses by the Beach has raised more than $120,000 for the Phoenix Society.

Brien has not only attended every PWBC since his first, but has also taken on a key logistical role. He and his van were unexpectedly pressed into service in 2004 when help was need to get the conference shipment back to the Phoenix Society office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from North Carolina. Now each year he drives the truck, transporting all of the Phoenix Society office equipment and supplies, to the Congress. In addition, since 2009, he has been responsible for coordinating all the exhibitors there.

Brien also volunteers as a Phoenix advocate, a Phoenix SOAR peer supporter, and a moderator of the Phoenix Web-based chats. He is able to share with others his amazing story of recovery from the plane crash in which he sustained his burn injuries. After 6 weeks in a drug-induced coma, months in therapy, and several surgeries, especially on his right hand which took the brunt of the burns, Brien was able to return to his profession as a clockmaker.

In naming Brien the 2014 Harman Award recipient, the Phoenix Society board of directors has recognized his demonstrated outstanding volunteer and charitable responsibility and generosity that encourages others to take philanthropic leadership roles within the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.

Oscar Barrera
Joe Hickey Fire Service Award

The Joe Hickey Fire Service Award honors a firefighter or firefighter burn foundation who provides assistance to burn survivors, demonstrates a commitment to improve burn care through all phases of recovery, and works to carry on the mission of the Society and the local burn community. This year’s recipient is Oscar Barrera.

Oscar was a captain in the Stockton (California) Fire Department when he was severely injured while fighting a house fire with the in 1997. Shortly after his release from the Dameron Hospital burn unit, Oscar got involved in the burn community, initially through the Fire Fighters Burn Institute (FFBI). He has volunteered nearly every year since then for the children’s burn camp it sponsors.

Although he looked forward to being able to spend more time with his wife once he retired, Oscar knew he had a calling to do something more, and his involvement with kids in the burn community eventually led to his current work with adult survivors.

Oscar, who continues to serve on the FFBI advisory board, became a Phoenix SOAR peer supporter, as has his wife Jeannine, and provides assistance whenever requested. He also represents the IAFF on the ABA’s Reintegration Committee and has assisted with planning and implementing firefighter programming for Phoenix World Burn Congress.

Oscar was also the key influence in the development by the FFBI of the Liaison Response Team (LRT) program in Sacramento to assist hospitals, firefighters, and firefighter families after a line-of-duty injury occurs, and he continues to participate in a very active way.
He is certainly following the late firefighter Joe Hickey’s philosophy of placing the wellbeing of burn survivors, above all, as his top priority.

About Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors        

People who suffer burn injuries often have a challenging time getting back to living. The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors helps them do exactly that. For more than 35 years, the Phoenix Society has worked with survivors, families, healthcare professionals, the fire industry and donors to support burn recovery, improve the quality of burn care, and prevent burn injuries. We are the only national non-profit organization helping survivors meet their challenges with the community support and the tools they need to thrive again. The Phoenix Society, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, takes its name from the legendary bird that is consumed by flame but rises again, more vibrant than before. To learn more, visit


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Jeanne LaSargeBono
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