Jim Thorpe awards gala celebrates courage in Oklahoma City
By Christine VanTimmeren
OKLAHOMA CITY — True courage in the face of adversity was awarded Friday night at the annual Integris Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center Courage Award Gala. The event was held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Every year Integris presents the Courage Award to people in our community who exemplified courage throughout their recovery at the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center. Most often, true courage is quiet. It's hidden within a person and hidden from the public eye. But Friday night, courage was thrown into the spotlight and three of our local heroes were honored. "Having stories like this is the most uplifting thing for people in the community," said Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center Medical Director Dr. Al Moorad. Matt Grice, an Oklahoma City Police officer was in a coma for a month after being rear-ended by a car going 65 miles per hour. EH Pittman was a soldier with the 45th Infantry Brigade who was paralyzed, after coming home, in the Moore tornado. Billy Wynne is the sole survivor of an Eaglemed helicopter crash. "Overcome so many difficulties, so many hardships, so much injuries and say, you know what, I want to live again. I want to live for my kids, for my wife, for my parents, for my family," said Dr. Moorad said about the award winners. Grice, a former UFC fighter, kept that fighting spirit despite a traumatic brain injury. "I just wanted to get as good as I could for my family, my wife, my kids," said Grice. Pittman sheltered a young mom and her infant son inside the 7/11 that was blown away by the tornado. Wynne suffered burns on 65% of his body and doctors had to amputate his left leg and fingers. "There were so many things I wanted to do in life. So many things with my family I wanted to do," Wynne said. All three are now thriving thanks, in no small part, to their courage. Dr. Moorad says he knows the three will never say they're deserving of the Courage Award, but knowing how truly amazing their recoveries have been, there's no doubt in his mind, courageous is exactly what they are. "They're resilient, courageous. Unbelievable sprit, unbelievable demeanor. They love life. Their zest for life and they believe in themselves, their family and God." Event organizers say they hope to raise about $150,000 from the award gala. They plan to use the money for improved technology and equipment so others can have the same success as the three honorees.
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