The second Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Symposium concluded on February 21st, 2020 and was a resounding success. Following this event, I composed a letter of gratitude to all the guest speakers which in essence, was my personal reflection on what it means to serve our own.
We also want to take this opportunity to thank each and every attendee for being present, and making this symposium the success that it truly was. Below I share the text of my letter as a way to keep the conversation going. If you have your own thoughts, please post them in the comments section of this blog or on our team Facebook page.
Take care and be well,
Dear Symposium Speakers,
I want to extend heartfelt thanks to all of you who made the 2nd Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Symposium a resounding success. You came, shared your gifts and talents with the first responder community, and we walked away with usable content that could be immediately implemented with the objective of improving our mental wellbeing. I say, “mission accomplished”. However, this is what I know to be true.
The real magic happened long after the lights in the meeting rooms faded to black. It was the inspired conversations between presenter and attendee, brother and sister firefighters, friendships renewed, and new ones started organically out of this shared experience. I witnessed firefighters standing up in a classroom and sharing a story publicly for the first time – not knowing why they did so. We even had such a high demand for one of the topics, that another session was added on day two.
Many attendees found me and related that the team did such a great job in assembling an awesome line up of speakers along with a hospitable venue in which to hold this event. In the sessions I attended I walked away with two notable quotes: “It’s my story, not yours”, and “If you have a story to share- do it”.
These quotes exemplify what peer support is at its core value. It is about mentorship and walking a brother or sister through where you have already been. It is about sharing your journey in an authentic and vulnerable way that touches the heart of another and offers hope. It is the stories you shared as speakers that strengthens the resolve of those who may be struggling.
In closing, if there is anything we can do to help further your mission in making this world a better place to live for yourselves, the first responder community, or the world at-large – please do not hesitate to reach out.
With abiding respect and gratitude,
Illinois Firefighter Peer Support