A horrific car crash on Christmas Day 2009 changed the life of a then 24-year-old Langley man, leaving him with burns to a third of his body.
For his positive attitude and relentless bravery to overcome adversity, Lester Wong has been honoured with a Courage to Come Back Award.
Wong was recognized in the category of physical rehabilitation at this year’s Coast Mental Health Awards held online last month.
“Lester showed amazing courage with one of the most horrific injuries the body can endure,” said the anonymous individual from Burn Camp who nominated Wong for the award.
“Lester’s injury is the worst scenario as it has severely disfigured him, and people do not know how to react around him. Lester has become an amazing spokesperson for us, and is very confident in public. His mere presence at camp puts the over 80 camper’s own trauma in perspective, just by meeting him”
Wong’s 2009 injuries left him with devastating burns, affecting his upper body and limbs. He had more than 30 reconstructive surgeries to his eyelids, ears, mouth and hands and to wear pressure garments day and night for more than two years.
In spite of his injuries, Wong showed incredible determination to continue to pursue his life goals.
“I had made small goals like renewing my belongings, ID cards, and driver’s license that led to accomplishing bigger goals,” Wong recalled. “I had long term goals like getting back to school and finishing my courses and going back to work in the military as a reservist.”
— Coast Mental Health (@CoastMH) June 1, 2021
And Wong made sure to meet those goals.
He returned to school at British Columbia Institute of Technology, and just over a year after the crash, resumed duty as a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces.
Wong recently passed his tests and gained employment with a small aircraft maintenance facility.
Wong’s injuries and the loss of his fingers haven’t stopped him from achieving his dream of becoming an airline pilot, either.
“Lester has shown that adversity is something that you can overcome if you have faith, you work hard, and you strive to make each day better than the last,” said Roman Rapoport, director of maintenance at Ascendance Aviation.
Wong has become an active member of the Future is Mine, an adult burn survivor program; and he has volunteered as a counsellor at Burn Camp.
“I feel very humbled and honored to received this year’s award,” Wong said. “It was no mean feat to accomplish the rigours training to obtain my commercial pilot license and all it’s ratings; most importantly, being able to go back to an active member of the Canadian Armed Forces after through strenuous assessment and tests in 2012.”
The Courage To Come Back Awards were hosted by Olympian and former Vancouver Canucks goaltender, and Mental Health advocate Corey Hirsch. The event recognized the lives of five individuals whose stories inspire acts of courage and compassion, and ensure that Coast Mental Health can continue to provide meaningful support for anyone with the courage to come back from mental illness.
Thank you to all those that support mental health. The Courage to Come Back Awards were a huge hit. If you missed it, here it is. Thank you.
— Corey Hirsch (@CoreyHirsch) May 31, 2021
Coast Mental Health provides housing, support, and employment programs and services for individuals affected by mental illness.