CUMBERLAND, Md. — Some staffers at UPMC Western Maryland had a good start to their day earlier this week when they received an unexpected delivery — cards from Allegany County Public Schools students who are grateful for their diligence in making the community safer and healthier.
Monday morning, Jen Thomas, the hospital’s community health manager, and the Rev. Bruce McBride, director of pastoral care, made the rounds on the fifth floor of the hospital with the special surprise.
It was the second set of cards thus far. The first, written by students at Frost Elementary, was distributed around Halloween.
The batch distributed Monday contained “at least 1,000 cards” from students at 11 schools, mostly elementary.
“When Jen approached me with her idea, it was a no-brainer that we would reach out to get our students involved,” Mia Cross, a spokesperson for the school system, said by email. “Our principals were very receptive to the idea as well, and before we knew it we had collected so many cards from kids who were more than happy to thank a frontline worker. It’s especially important this time of year for us to encourage our students to be grateful, and so this activity/idea couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The idea behind collecting the cards, Thomas and McBride agreed, was as a token of gratitude from the kids for the hard work the medical staff performs.
“The theme that we’ve seen in the messages from these kids is, even though they’re our youngest community members, they still recognize what health care workers do, how they help them, help their family,” Thomas said. “There were personal stories in the cards like, ‘You saved my dad when he had a brain tumor,’ or ‘When I broke my leg you took care of me.’ They are just really meaningful. And, a lot of the kids’ parents work here as well, so they see them and the stress that they’re going through and they really get it.”
McBride said there’s a special connection with the students and the community with the hospital.
“It is a way for students to show their appreciation for the help and healing that their family members have felt,” he said. “I think it’s a way for them to show gratitude. During Thanksgiving, we talk about being really thankful to God and thankful to each other. It’s a way for students to say ... they’re grateful for what this hospital has done for them.
“The staff are able to see that people appreciate what we’re really doing here, that they haven’t forgotten about us,” McBride added. “We find nurses that are at times tired, exhausted, stressed, and they get this card and they say, ‘Look, somebody is remembering us.’”
Armed with the box of colorful, handmade cards, Thomas and McBride started near the elevators on the fifth floor and made their way around, passing out the greetings as they went.
“I love it,” nurse Lori Buzzard said, smiling as she looked at her purple card with a decorated bandage figure. “The fact that little kids are, you know, learning about health care and are concerned about what we’re doing is amazing. It’s been a rough day this morning, and this helps a lot. I’m going to put it on the fridge, just like I always do with my kids.”
Unit director Marie Buzzerd was equally enthusiastic about her card. Little gestures like that go a long way toward lifting spirits, she said.
“On a Monday, it makes such a difference, having somebody show you that they care,” Buzzerd said. “We’re here to take care of the community, and it warms your heart when it comes from the children in the community, that they’re making these and sending them in for us. When anybody tells you something kind, it’s wonderful, but it’s especially wonderful when it comes from a child.”