FROM THE EXPRESS TIMES
Two Bushkill Township police officers were among several people recognized Tuesday night for heroism during the sixth annual Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Awards celebration at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg.
Cpl. David Marino and officer Joshua Miller responded June 26, 2010, to an early morning car crash along Cherry Hill Road. Marino and Miller pulled out the unconscious occupant of the flipped and burning pickup truck before it was engulfed by fire, officials said.
The 22-year-old victim was identified in earlier news accounts as Roger Blanchard, of Lower Nazareth Township.
The Spirit of Courage Awards recognize people in northern and northeastern Pennsylvania for heroic acts and people’s commitment to burn education.
The program was started locally by Valley Preferred, Lehigh Valley Health Network and the Burn Prevention Network to recognize people who go above and beyond the call of duty, organizers said.
Also recognized Tuesday night was Wayne Sheckler, a letter carrier from Slatington in Lehigh County.
He rescued an 84-year-old woman and guided a hearing-impaired woman to safety in a March 30 fire that gutted two homes and damaged three others, organizers said.
Sheckler was in the neighborhood when the blaze broke out and knew the elderly woman stayed in the home that was on fire. He got her out and helped the woman next door before the fire department arrived.
Honored with The Phoenix Award was burn survivor Steven Leymeister, of Shillington in Berks County.
Here’s how award celebration organizers described Leymeister’s story:
"On Dec. 4, 2004, 18-year-old Steven Leymeister’s life changed forever. On that day he was found on his father’s living room sofa, unconscious and badly burned. He was taken by MedEvac to the Lehigh Valley Health Network Regional Burn Center with burns to 85 percent of his body and second- and third-degree burns to his neck, chest, back, trunk and extremities. He remained hospitalized on a ventilator for 124 days, enduring numerous surgeries and complications.
"In the months to follow, Leymeister underwent occupational, physical and speech therapy as well as additional surgeries. During this time he had no recollection of what caused his life-threatening burns. Little by little the horrifying memories emerged.
"Two of Leymeister’s fellow employees were threatened by his good standing with his employer. These co-workers took him out for the evening on Dec. 3. They went for a ride in the country where they set him on fire with an acetylene torch and left him at his father’s house. He has had to battle fierce demons — pain, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, frustration and feelings of betrayal and anger — as part of his physical and psychological healing.
"Rather than descend into despair and hatred, he chose to rebuild his life. Now nearly seven years later, Leymeister is driven by a mission to help others who have experienced traumatic events. He offers support, strength and hope to children at burn camps and is a SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) volunteer for Lehigh Valley Health Network. He is a frequent speaker at events and support groups in the burn community, and is pursuing a career in counseling psychology through his studies at Albright University. He recently was inducted into the National Psychology Honor Society.
"Leymeister now claims Dec. 4 as his rebirth, the night that opened his life to infinite potential and triumph."