A well-deserved honor

Don Stephens doesn’t strike us as the kind of man who lives for laurels, though he certainly deserves them.

Stephens, a 1963 graduate of Olathe High School, has been nominated to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his life’s work delivering free health care to the world’s poor from ships that serve as floating hospitals.

Stephens founded Mercy Ships in 1978 with a single ship. At any given time during its 35-year history, Mercy Ships has had between one and three ships in service, providing life-saving surgeries and services valued at more than $1.3 billion in 55 developing nations. More than 2.5 million people have benefited from Mercy Ships’ mission, which includes training health-care workers to serve communities where health care is inaccessible.

Stephens and his wife, who graduated from Grand Junction High School and what was then known as Mesa Junior College, were highlighted in a “60 Minutes” segment on CBS in 2013.

Recognition is important because the nonprofit Mercy Ships is dependent on donations. Hopefully the Congressional Gold Medal will make more people aware of this Western Slope native’s life-changing mission.


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