Meet the Hometown Heroes of COVID-19
Everyone needs a hero at one point or another. Thankfully, the South has no shortage of heroes – our readers voted to let us know – throughout our communities that go to bat for us every day. These exemplars have stepped up to the plate during the pandemic just as they had been doing before with just as much compassion and determination as ever. Read about South's Greatest Heroes Contest winners of 2020.
Dr. Stephen A. Thacker
As a specialist in pediatrics and infectious disease, Dr. Stephen A. Thacker has been an authoritative voice and instrumental figure in the fight against COVID-19 in the Lowcountry. The Savannah community has turned to Dr. Thacker as a trusted expert and source of truth amid speculation and uncertainty. In his role as associate chief medical officer at Memorial Health, Dr. Thacker has led his colleagues in seeking out the most innovative and effective treatments available. Under his leadership, infected patients have been treated safely with many positive outcomes.
In the midst of the global pandemic, Courtney Sanderlin rushed to the front lines without hesitation. As an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse, Courtney is selflessly motivated to help others by risking her health on a daily basis. Her family and friends — who have seen her douse in disinfectants and endure isolation to ensure their safety — have admired her sacrifice. In days spent armed with PPE and preparing for a future in anesthesiology, Courtney is truly deserving of gratitude and recognition in her commitment to public health and safety.
Over the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world, but the Ronald McDonald House of Savannah has remained open and continues to serve its mission without interruption. As a “home away from home” for seriously ill or injured children and their families, the House is essential for the Savannah community and patients receiving treatment at hospitals in the region. Executive Director Bill Sorochak and his team have been committed to serving families during this difficult time. With the House’s purpose as important as ever, Sorochak’s unwavering dedication and support have made all the difference to a family seeking treatment.
The opportunity to have a positive impact on women and their families is what motivates Jessica Smith F.N.P. to go above and beyond for her patients, day in and day out. Despite a health condition that qualifies her as high-risk for COVID-19 as a life-threatening illness, Smith insists that showing up for her patients is a “no-brainer.” Smith helps pregnant patients who need increased isolation to connect with their families via FaceTime during ultrasounds, coordinates care packages, and stays after-hours to make phone calls. She has also continued to advocate for women’s rights and address gender-related health disparities in her community that have been underscored during the pandemic, making her a hero in eastern Georgia.
Britnee Kinard founded the SD Gunner Fund in 2014, inspired by her husband — a wounded veteran — and her two children. The local nonprofit, based in Richmond Hill, Georgia, works to provide service-animal assistance to veterans and disabled children by mediating costs and arranging accommodations. Passionate about helping others live their lives to the fullest, Kinard works tirelessly as a caregiver and philanthropist to improve her local community and raise international awareness about the benefits of service animals. More recently, Kinard stepped up during the COVID-19 outbreak and has been supporting local businesses and providing safe and quality meals to first responders through Operation Restaurants and Responders (R&R).