Four people who assisted during a tragic bus crash last year were recognized at an awards ceremony held by the American Red Cross of the Tennessee Mountain Valley.
Diana Whaley, Louie Kelling, Sandra Mulsand, and Dianne Britton received the Clara Barton Honor Award, an honor given to Red Cross volunteers who have served in an exceptional leadership role.
The recipients were nominated to receive the award for assisting the Red Cross and the University of Tennessee Medical Center during the aftermath of a terrible bus accident on Interstate 40 in Jefferson County that resulted in numerous injuries and eight fatalities.
Although the Red Cross could not offer any medical assistance to the victims, they were able to offer relief to the crash victims and their families as they waited in the hospital.
Dianne Britton’s focus was on providing mental health care. “We integrated with the hospital so that it was a complete service with the families,” she says, “When they came to the family assistance center, there were mental health people there 24 hours a day for the first day, and then at varied times when the service was open, so when the family members came they would have a mental health person to talk to.”
She went on to say that the task of offering mental health in that type of situation had more to do with providing support than it did with medical mental health issues. “It was very casual,” she says, “You just try to offer a listening ear.”
Although Dianne recognizes that her role in organizing mental health for the families was vital, she makes it a point to remind everyone that the key to overcoming a disaster is unity. She says, “We had a wonderful team here in Knoxville, we know each other and we trust each other and we all worked together...We wanted to coordinate with UT and the families. We wanted to work together. That was very important. It was a very successful example of the community working together.”
Dianne praised the Red Cross for their diligence in recognizing its volunteers.“They make sure to go out of their way to make sure their volunteers are recognized...I think the staff we have is just extraordinary.”
She notes, however, that the greatest honor was not the award itself, but getting the opportunity to receive the award alongside so many other hard working people. She says, “I cannot think of better company to be in than the three people who were part of that team….It was just a mountaintop experience.”