Freeman First Responder Awards ceremony set Feb. 23

February 15, 2024

The Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce will hold a ceremony Friday, Feb. 23, at Coastal Kitchen at Bear Trap Dunes to honor the outstanding police officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and firefighters who help keep local communities safe throughout the year.

Formerly known as the Valor Awards, the event received a new name as the term “valor” is sacred in the first responder community. Each participating company and department has selected one individual to be recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty and providing outstanding service. Nominating chiefs and captains may choose to have their awardee considered for the Overall Valor Award. This year, one of four nominees* will be presented the Overall Valor Award, which was renamed in 2007 to honor the memory of the late developer and philanthropist Joshua M. Freeman.

Continuing a 19-year tradition, the 2024 Joshua M. Freeman First Responder Awards, presented by the Carl M. Freeman Companies, will recognize the service and dedication of 14 nominees. Representatives of local towns and public safety organizations, government officials and chamber members will gather to honor these first responders for their acts of service, courage and commitment. 

As chosen by their leadership, the 2024 First Responder Award honorees by category are:

Officers of the Year: Patrolman Molly Ryan* – Bethany Beach Police Department; Cpl. Justin Wechtenhiser* – Dagsboro Police Department; Officer Cameron Clift* – Fenwick Island Police Department; Sgt. Mark Burton – Ocean View Police Department; Patrolman 1st Class Tyler Bare* – Selbyville Police Department; and Cpl. Shaun Baldasano – South Bethany Police Department.

Firefighters of the Year: Firefighter Jerry Carter – Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company; Firefighter Ed Ferencie – Frankford Volunteer Fire Company; and Fire Police Captain William Bowden Sr. – Millville Volunteer Fire Company.

EMTs of the Year: EMT Nathan Shine – Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company; EMT Matt Troutman – Sussex County Emergency Medical Services; EMS Lt. Justin Shockley – Frankford Volunteer Fire Company; EMT Tyler Hickman – Millville Volunteer Fire Company; and Engine Captain Daniel Hudson – Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company.

Recent Overall Valor Award Winners include Deputy Chief William Parramore of Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company (2023); Maria Berdan of Sussex County EMS (2022); Sussex County EMS Staff (2021); Larry Corrigan of the Frankford Police Department (2020); and Justin Hopkins of the Ocean View Police Department (2019).

“The business community is grateful for the opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the local law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical services,” said Lauren Weaver, chamber executive director. “It is a different character this group possesses, selfless and brave. It is a joy to be able to celebrate that with their families, leadership and peers.”

Support for this event is provided by Carl M. Freeman Companies, Banks Wines & Spirits, Coastal Point, Delmarva Power, Mountaire Farms, Coastal Services, State Farm Agent Billy Reese, Taylor Bank, Wilgus Associates, Anne Powell - Coldwell Banker, Beebe Healthcare, Bethany Beach Books & The Book Drop, True North, and PNC Bank.

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