People have been honored with parades in Connecticut over the years for many different kinds of achievements and accolades. Military veterans, championship athletic teams and ethnic celebrations have all been feted in the proper way.
On Wednesday, it was time for the health care workers at UConn Health to be saluted with a parade in recognition of their heroic efforts in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
First responders from around the Farmington region, in addition to the UConn police and fire departments, circled around the main entrance of UConn Health with sirens and horns blaring to say “Thank You” to the health care workers.
The genesis of the parade was a phone call from Steve Hoffmann, the Director of Fire and Rescue Services for the town of Farmington, where the main campus of UConn Health is located, to UConn Deputy Fire Chief Chris Renshaw.
“We have a great relationship with the Farmington Fire Department and they wanted to know if we were interested in doing this type of parade,” says Renshaw. “We had been talking about it internally and Steve’s call had the perfect timing. We said ‘Let’s do it.’”
Some assistance from the Division of Athletics resulted in both the live and costumed Husky mascot Jonathan making appearances.
The parade provided a welcome and spirited break for the workers at UConn Health, some of whom watched it outside and others from offices and rooms of patients. There were cheers, happy screams, and even a few tears.
“These employees are extremely self-motivated, they are doing this because this is why they got into this profession,” says Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, the CEO of UConn Health and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs. “But, of course it’s nice to be recognized for coming in every day and risking your own health to take care of the people of Connecticut.”
“Our hope was to provide a brief, but much needed, outlet for the folks that are on the front line,” says Renshaw. “They are dedicating an enormous part of their professional lives, and large amounts of their personal lives, battling the coronavirus in health care settings from the ICU to the Outpatient Pavilion to the organizations that are going to patients’ homes and bringing them to the hospital.”
The following first responder groups took part in the parade: UConn Police Department; UConn Fire Department; Connecticut State Police; Farmington Police Department; Farmington Center Fire Department; East Farms Fire Department (Farmington); Tunxis Hose Company (Farmington); Avon Fire Department; Canton Fire Department; Simsbury Police Department; Simsbury Fire Department; West Hartford Police Department; West Hartford Fire Department; Unionville Fire Department; and American Medical Response, Inc.
“We are just overwhelmed by the kindness that has been expressed by everyone around,” says Kerri King, a nurse at UConn Health. “It really makes a difference, it keeps you working hard. It’s not just the doctors and nurses that we should recognize. We are recognizing all our health care people … people that are still working in the cafeterias … it’s the housekeepers, people working in delivery…everyone.”
“This moment of unity provided a brief break in the repetitive and long hours of patient care,” says Renshaw. “I want to thank all of our fellow first responders that took part in the parade. No one is alone in this battle. UConn Student Health and Wellness and UConn Student Affairs are all doing amazing work. We are truly one UConn Nation.”