Written on April 29, 2022
It was 1989. Josh Gropper was in his second year of law school at Boston University, prepping for a final exam when his dad called. His only brother, Danny, had been trapped in a house fire. It was a rental home with a faulty smoke detector. The result was tragic, and the prognosis grim.
Within hours, Josh was on a plane to Long Island to be with his family…unaware how much his own life had just changed.
Danny’s burns were severe, covering 78% of his body. He fought hard. And he survived. But his recovery would be long, slow, and unpredictable. Six months in the hospital. The loss of both hands and both legs. A year in rehabilitation.
But in all the uncertainty, Josh was there. He canceled his summer internship at a corporate law firm in San Francisco. He transferred law schools to be near Danny. His role of big brother had expanded to include the part of advocate.
As Danny began to heal, Josh searched for ways to help his younger brother along his journey. Naturally, that included finding a good lawyer to guide him through the legal process. In that, Josh witnessed the lifechanging difference a quality, caring lawyer can make for people whose lives have been tragically altered by severe injuries.
That experience woke a passion for advocacy inside Josh. It changed the trajectory of his career, shifting his focus from corporate law to personal injury. And it led him to Phoenix Society.
Josh saw how community brought validation. How support brought healing. How connection created opportunity. His life’s mission was to help his brother live a full life. Phoenix Society offered support and resources that could help Danny thrive. Josh was all in.
Danny wasn’t so sure. It took a few years, but Josh eventually convinced him to attend Phoenix World Burn Congress (WBC). That was all it took. Danny experienced the connection and recognized the opportunity for deeper healing his brother had identified:
Josh was determined to pursue all those avenues to find and create platforms where Danny could give and receive support…because he recognized helping and healing are reciprocal. When Danny connects with others, healing happens in their lives and his own.
Josh got to work. He contacted Nassau University Medical Center on Long Island, the hospital that had cared for Danny after his accident. Working with a dedicated burn nurse, he helped initiate a Phoenix SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) chapter at the burn center, opening the door to ongoing peer support for Danny and other survivors in the area.
He became a regular at Phoenix WBC. Whether an attendee, a panelist, or a speaker, he continually searched for ways to equip and embolden survivors and their families.
Last year, the brothers joined forces to introduce the “Healing Power of Comedy,” a new session at Phoenix WBC that showcased Danny’s comedic gifts. The two men discussed the role of comedy in healing from a medical and psychological point of view with burn surgeon Dr. Darnell Brown and James Bosch, burn survivor and licensed therapist. With wit, banter, and raw honesty, they invited burn survivors to find confidence and freedom in humor.
Danny’s humor, his story, and everything about his life continually inspires Josh. He has journeyed with his little brother through three decades of recovery. He has dedicated much of his personal life and all his career to helping others find the same satisfying life after an injury.
Through the years, Josh has been an advocate for burn survivors, amputees, and others who have been seriously injured, along with their families. He champions survivors of all ages, devoted to giving them a future full of hope and opportunity. Dr. Brown recognizes Josh as an essential partner in healing:
—Dr. Darnell Brown
Josh’s entire adult life has been shaped by his own experience, his brother’s, and those of the survivors he represents. He knows burn injuries. He understands the struggles and the triumphs. Empathy and experience are powerful changemakers—Josh has harnessed both to uphold the rights of survivors and empower them to live their best life. Just like Danny.
Joshua Gropper is managing partner of Gropper & Nejat, PLLC with offices in New York and New Jersey. For 25 years, he has provided legal counsel that is helping families find justice and accountability. He has been selected as a Super Lawyer for eight years and running. Josh and his firm have also become partners of Phoenix Society’s mission and programs. Their support is creating access to community, peer support, information, and programming that is helping more people heal.And their readily available expertise is providing skilled representation to survivors across the nation. Stay connected with Phoenix Society for more legal resources throughout the year and don’t hesitate to reach out to Josh with your legal questions at (212) 366-4600.