WASHINGTON, March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Former pro bull rider Tony Bell, now an aspiring teacher and camp counselor for young ostomates, was named this year's Great Comebacks® National Award recipient and Latoya Lucas, who was severely wounded during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was presented with the Tony Snow Public Service Award at a ceremony in Washington, DC. Founded 25 years ago by former San Diego Charger and ulcerative colitis patient Rolf Benirschke, the Great Comebacks Program celebrates the inspirational achievements of people who have overcome serious intestinal diseases, colorectal cancer and other conditions that can lead to ostomy surgery.
The Great Comebacks Program is sponsored by ConvaTec, a world-leading developer and marketer of innovative medical technologies for community and hospital care, in partnership with the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation (CCFA), the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA), the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS), Youth Rally, and the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses (WOCN) Society.
Each year, the Great Comebacks Advisory Committee recognizes people of all ages, from children to adults, culminating in the naming of the National Award recipient. The Tony Snow Public Service Award, named in memory of the former White House advisor and news broadcaster who was an Honorary Great Comebacks Award recipient in 2006, was created last year to honor extraordinary individuals who are passionate about serving their country while dealing courageously with intestinal disease and ostomy surgery.
"For 25 years, Great Comebacks stories such as Tony's and Latoya's have provided much-needed support and encouragement to millions of patients affected by these serious intestinal diseases or facing ostomy surgery," said Rolf Benirschke, founder and chairman of the Great Comebacks Program. "Tonight, we celebrate the courage they have shown in persevering, their will to succeed in their chosen paths, and above all, their ability to inspire us all."
"As a leader in ostomy care for more than 30 years, ConvaTec looks forward to continuing our support of advocacy, awareness and education for people with an ostomy through programs like Great Comebacks," said Nino Pionati, President of ConvaTec Ostomy Care. "Great Comebacks recipients like Tony and Latoya not only help countless others through their personal health struggles, they also inspire all of us at ConvaTec to keep developing innovative technologies that help people with an ostomy lead full and productive lives."
More information about this year's national and regional recipients is available at www.greatcomebacks.com.
Tony Bell, 2009 National Great Comebacks® Recipient
Born with a defect of his colon, Tony Bell underwent ostomy surgery shortly after birth. A reversal a few years later, left Tony struggling with incontinence so at 9 years old, he received a permanent colostomy. All of a sudden, this inactive, withdrawn boy who was scared to leave his home was ready to saddle up and grab life by the horns.
In control of his body – and his life – at last, Tony wasted no time, mounting his first bull and then while attending college on a singing scholarship, went pro on the rodeo circuit. He competed professionally for two years, even riding in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, known as "The Daddy of Them All."
Today, Tony, 28, lives in Harveyville, KS, where he works on the family farm and is only a few credits shy of his special education teaching degree. He also performs in a barbershop quartet with his dad and is an outdoor enthusiast, who enjoys skydiving and noodling (fishing for catfish with your bare hands!). "I want to share with the world my story of success so that others with life-changing conditions know that they are not alone," said Tony. "No matter what comes your way, always reach for the stars and grasp your dreams – they are only a bull ride away."
Latoya Lucas, Tony Snow Public Service Award Recipient
Wanting to help others, Latoya Lucas joined the Army at age 20 to train as a heavy construction equipment repairer – one of just three women in a class of about 20. Four years later, when her daughter was 3 years old, she was deployed to Iraq.
The months passed quickly, until July 21, 2003, when two rocket-propelled grenades barreled towards Latoya and her supply mission squad. The first missed both Humvees. The second struck directly under Latoya, throwing her from the vehicle, where she lay unable to move with multiple severe injuries: broken bones, a fractured pelvis, traumatic brain injury, severe burns and nerve damage. Latoya was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC where she underwent numerous surgeries, including colostomy surgery, as doctors could not repair the damage caused by the shrapnel that had punctured her intestines.
Retired from the Army due to her injuries, Latoya concentrated on her rehabilitation and joined several veteran and civic organizations. She also started a project to identify and contact wounded soldiers to provide encouragement and support.
Finding her calling as a motivational and inspirational speaker, Latoya began writing a book to share her life experiences – The Immeasurable Spirit: Lessons of a Wounded Warrior about Faith and Perseverance. The book received the Gold Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America.
For her service and work with wounded soldiers, Latoya, 30, who lives in Colorado Springs, CO with her husband and now 9-year-old daughter, received several awards of distinction including the Purple Heart. In 2005, she became the first female recipient of the Military Order of the Purple Heart's Region V Patriot of the Year award.
About the Great Comebacks® Program
Now in its third decade, the Great Comebacks® Program raises awareness of quality of life issues for people with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer and other diseases that can lead to ostomy surgery. The mission of Great Comebacks® is to provide information and inspiration to people facing the emotional, as well as physical, challenges of living with serious intestinal diseases and ostomy surgery. The program also aims to remove the stigma surrounding ostomy surgery and to educate patients, their families and friends, and the general public that ostomy surgery can be a second chance to fulfill dreams, and lead a full and productive life with joy and passion. For more information, please visit www.greatcomebacks.com.
ConvaTec is a leading developer and marketer of innovative medical technologies that have helped improve the lives of millions of people worldwide. With four key business divisions – Ostomy Care, Wound Therapeutics, Continence and Critical Care and Infusion Devices – ConvaTec products support health care professionals from the hospital to the community health setting. From its headquarters in Skillman, New Jersey, the company oversees more than 8,000 employees in over 90 countries serving consumers and their health care professionals on six continents. For more information, please visit www.convatec.com.
About the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation (CCFA)
The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America's (CCFA) mission is to cure Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. The Foundation ranks third among leading health non-profits in the percentage of expense devoted to research toward a cure, with more than 81 cents of every dollar the Foundation spends going to mission-critical programs. The Foundation consistently meets the standards of organizations that monitor charities, including the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance (give.org) and the American Institute of Philanthropy (charitywatch.org). For more information, contact the Foundation at 800-932-2423 or visit www.ccfa.org.
About the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA)
The United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA) is a national network for bowel and urinary diversion support groups in the United States. Its goal is to provide a non-profit association that will serve to unify and strengthen its member support groups, which are organized for the benefit of people who have, or will have intestinal or urinary diversions and their caregivers. For more information, please visit www.uoaa.org.
About the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS)
The North American Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS) raises awareness of intestinal diseases through education and public awareness campaigns. IDEAS provides quality of life enhancing programs for children and young adults afflicted with intestinal diseases and their families. IDEAS conducts advocacy programs on behalf of all people living with intestinal diseases. For more information, please visit www.weneedideas.com.
About Youth Rally
For over 30 years the Youth Rally has been a place for adolescents with ostomies and continent diversions, or who are preparing for surgery, to come together and meet other young people who deal with similar life experiences. The annual summer camp operated by the Youth Rally Committee (YRC) strives to provide a positive support network that highlights independence and individuality as tools youths can use to regain confidence and a sense of belonging. For more information about the Youth Rally and this year's camp, please visit www.rally4youth.org.
About the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses (WOCN) Society
The WOCN Society is a professional nursing society that promotes educational, clinical and research opportunities to advance the practice and guide the delivery of expert health care to individuals with wounds, ostomies and incontinence. Membership includes more 4,200 healthcare professionals who are experts in the care of patients with wound, ostomy and incontinence. For more information, please visit www.wocn.org.
Note to Editors:
Photography of the Great Comebacks® National Award Dinner is available. For more information, please contact Etanjalie Ayala at (212) 445-8225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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