The Empath Tribute pin.

Empath Health has long recognized the service of military veterans, expressing a grateful nation’s appreciation for a job well done and a life well lived.

But there is a group of public servants also deserving of ultimate respect for carrying out their duties to serve, protect and save.

Enter Empath Tribute, a new Empath Health program created to celebrate the sacrifice and contribution made by first responders, specifically police officers, firefighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers.

“When you look at what veterans do for us – they keep us safe, they’ve put their lives on the line – our police and fire and EMS are doing a similar job on a community level,” said Stacy Groff, Vice President of Volunteer Engagement. “It just made sense with our mission and values to do something for the first responders who are our front lines in the community.”

The Empath Tribute Program will honor patients under care at Empath Health’s hospice organizations: Suncoast Hospice, Suncoast Hospice of Hillsborough, Empath Hospice and Tidewell Hospice.

In many ways, the program will mirror the organization’s veterans recognition programs, Empath Honors and Tidewell Honors Veterans. An Empath Health volunteer or grateful community member will present the patient a pin featuring icons representative of police, fire and EMS and then reads from a card the patient and family will keep.

The card script reads, “We are gathered today to honor you as an emergency first responder. You have chosen a profession that requires putting the health and safety of others before yourself. You have made a commitment to take immediate action and respond to situations where the lives and safety of others are dependent on your service. On behalf of the grateful colleagues and volunteers of Empath Health, we pay a special tribute to you for your dedication and courage to serve the citizens of the community.”

Empath Health’s hospice affiliates are partners of the We Honor Veterans program, an initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that recognizes the need to better serve military veterans and their families. A significant aspect of the Honors programs is the pinning ceremony. An Empath veteran volunteer presents the honoree with a certificate and an Honors pin.

Groff’s father served as a police officer in Baltimore, Maryland. She said family members often took part in promotion ceremonies.

“I know the appreciation for what they do from community members is just as important as that peer-to-peer honor,” Groff said.

The cost of the Empath Tribute pins is covered by Suncoast Hospice and Tidewell foundations. Groff said the organization hopes to expand Empath Tribute to other Empath service lines and to the community at large.

To learn more about the Empath Tribute program, visit To volunteer for the program, visit