At the recent Brain Injury Association of Missouri (BIA-MO) annual awards celebration, Center consumer Richard Wessbecher was honored with the “Service Excellence Award – Community Service.” This award recognizes an individual or organization for exceptional service within the brain injury community.

Richard with Debbie Boyd, Director of Employment Supports, and Donna Gunning, Executive Director.

In 2002, Richard suffered massive brain injuries when he was hit by a car while jogging on the Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College. He was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital, but was miraculously revived. Richard was confined to a wheelchair and his brain injury impaired his short-term memory, his cognitive skills and his ability to speak and understand others. Richard began his road to rehabilitation, eventually graduating to walking using a walker.

In 2004, Richard came to the Center and began participating in physical, occupational and speech therapies, making significant advances and improvements. Unfortunately, Richard would not be able to return to his prior career as a maintenance technician for an aviation company, so he began working with the Center’s vocational and employment teams. They worked to help Richard find a opportunities that fit his interests and abilities. He got a job working for Schnucks in the deli department, where Richard has been employed for 11 years. His supervisors praise Richard’s work ethic, dedication and dependability. The Center also helped Richard to develop and master independent living skills. Today, Richard walks independently, he has a job, he lives in his own home and drives a car.

Sixteen years after his injury, Richard is a study in strength, perseverance and courage. In addition to his own journey to rehabilitation and independence, Richard has a strong desire to give back to the community and help others. He is an active volunteer in the brain injury community. Richard regularly comes to the Center as a speaker for people seeking employment, to tell his story and encourage them in their job searches. Every year, he volunteers at the Center’s fundraising events and attends other special events to represent the Center. He also regularly volunteers at BIA-MO, devoting multiple days a week to help in the organization’s mission to reduce the incidence of brain injury; to promote acceptance, independence and productivity of persons with brain injury; and to support their families and caregivers. Richard is very much deserving of this community service award.

The Center is so proud of Richard and we commend him on this special award. We are honored to be a part of Richard’s story.

You can see a list of other 2018 BIA-MO award winners here.