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September 23, 2008    DOL Home > ODEP > New Freedom Initiative   

Secretary of Labor's SPIRIT Award

The fifth anniversary of the Secretary of Labor’s New Freedom Initiative Awards marked the first year of the SPIRIT Award.

The Secretary of Labor’s SPIRIT Award is given to an individual with a disability or an organization demonstrating leadership and an unyielding commitment to achieving success. Award recipients are recognized for their qualities to inspire and enhance the ability of Americans with disabilities to enter and participate fully in the 21st century workforce.

These qualities include:

• Strength in leadership
• Perseverance in unyielding commitment to
achieving success
• Integrity
• Role model
• Independence
• Trail blazer

2007 SPIRIT Award

On October 24, 2007, Secretary Elaine L. Chao presented the award to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
Marc A. Buoniconti
Miami, Florida

Values at Work: Making a difference for those with spinal injuries

2007 Spirit Award winner Marc Buoniconti

Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (right) presents Marc A. Buoniconti (center) with the Secretary's SPIRIT Award at this year's NFI Awards. Pictured at left is Marc's mother, Terry. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)

The inspiration for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis began in 1985 when Marc Buoniconti suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. In that moment, he joined those who know the devastation of such injuries, and his struggle to recover led Marc’s father, NFL Hall of fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti, and Dr. Barth A. Green to found the Miami Project.

Since then, the Project has become the world’s largest and most comprehensive spinal cord injury center. With over 200 doctors, scientists and clinicians, the Project has made unparalleled and spectacular findings in its cutting edge research, and generated hope for millions of people worldwide paralyzed by spinal cord injury. The Project is renowned for pursuing a revolutionary strategy of gathering together the finest minds in neuroscience in an all-out assault on spinal cord injuries and promoting the kind of intensive collaboration between the scientific and clinical communities which holds the best prospect for new and effective treatments.

Committed to finding a cure and seeing millions worldwide walk again, Marc Buoniconti serves as Ambassador for The Miami Project and conducts a rigorous campaign to ensure that this important work is seen clearly and positively by an ever-increasing public. In its crusade to understand and eliminate paralysis, the Miami Project gave Marc and so many others the promise of someday unlocking the secrets of spinal cord repair and regeneration – and hope for a better future.

2006 SPIRIT Award

On October 26, 2006, Secretary Elaine L. Chao presented the first award to Dave Dravecky.

Former Major League Baseball Pitcher and Secretary SPIRIT Award recipient Dave Dravecky with wife, Jan, (left) presents autographed bat to Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. (DOL photo/Shawn Moore)

Former Major League Baseball Pitcher and Secretary SPIRIT Award recipient Dave Dravecky with wife, Jan, (left) presents autographed bat to Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. (DOL photo/Shawn Moore)

Dave Dravecky
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Values at Work:
Commitment to inspiring others

Dave Dravecky is a former Major League Baseball pitcher, bestselling author, motivational speaker, and founder of Outreach of Hope. In the seventh year of his baseball career, a cancerous tumor was discovered in his pitching arm. After initial treatment and defying all odds, Dave came back to pitch once again in the Major Leagues and became an inspiration not only to cancer fighters, but to all who needed hope that day. But the cancer returned, and the following years were a whirlwind of surgery, radiation, pain and depression, all in the glaring light of the media. Eventually, his arm was amputated to stop the spread of the cancer and save his life.

In response to thousands of letters and requests received from people encouraged by his example, Dave Dravecky founded, with his wife Jan, the Outreach of Hope ministry in 1991 to offer comfort, encouragement and hope to those who suffer from cancer, amputation or serious illness. Dave and Jan Dravecky are also the bestselling authors of eight inspirational books, in addition to publishing The Encourager, a national magazine addressing the emotional and spiritual aspects of suffering.

Dave Dravecky continues to examine the impact of the amputation on his life and powerfully inspires others with what he has discovered during the journey. His story is one of courage and perseverance in the midst of dark and overwhelming uncertainty. He genuinely relates to men and women with disabilities everywhere through loss and suffering, faith, encouragement, hope, reaching out to others, and finding the strength to say goodbye to the past.

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