They have been working day in and day out through the global pandemic to keep the community safe and healthy, but frontline heroes at Southlake Regional Health Centre still found time this season to make the holidays a little brighter for local kids in need.
Last Monday, Southlake physicians and staff donated a veritable mountain of toys and gift cards to Holiday Heroes, an initiative of the York Regional Police.
Last year, staff donated gift cards and toys to the drive, raising nearly $7,000 for the cause.
This year, despite the emergence of the Omicron variant, being able to collect toys was a welcome return to some degree of normalcy.
“We are very happy to get back to donating toys again this year,” said Arden Krystal, President & CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre. “It warms my heart to see our lobby overflowing with toys and to think of our staff and physicians coming together to help families in our community. Even during these tough times, our Southlake team takes the time to give back to our communities.”
Staff were really excited to have the opportunity to give back to the kids, notes Southlake’s Lindsey Furlanic.
“We had so much community support during the first few waves of the pandemic and staff were just excited to give back,” she says of 2020’s efforts. “They really came together to donate that $7,000 in gift cards, which was amazing. One person collected money and then went out and bought all of the gift cards for the whole team so not everybody had to run to the store. The cardiac team did that as well and went out to purchase all the gift cards on behalf of their team. It was really amazing to see.
“We were skeptical about how the gift card drive was going to go because we had always done toys. We’ve been doing this for 10 years now and staff have always been very excited to give toys, but that went over very well. Going back to toys this year went over really well. It was nice to see our lobby overflowing with toys again. It really felt like a bit of normalcy for the hospital, but with the Omicron variant, we’re really veering away from that again.”
With the Omicron variant casting a pall over the holiday season with frontline staff, hospital workers and others braced for an onslaught of new cases, it is important to not lose sight of the work being done behind hospital walls.
“I do feel like frontline workers feel like they don’t have the same support this time around,” says Furlanic. “I think everyone is over it. In the beginning, we really felt that support for the community; there were parades that were going by the hospital, we had a number of donated items – so many that we did a wellness cart that went around with different treats on it for staff. Sometimes there were meals donated by the community, lots of gift cards for our staff, all of our community partners. That just really went a long way for morale. It has definitely slowed, of course, because it has been going on so long. Staff are feeling that a little bit and maybe that they’re feeling a bit forgotten.”
So, how can the community help?
“Just show your support for a healthcare worker. In the beginning, it was so new and everyone was rallying around their healthcare workers. There were signs everywhere and we really just felt it. There are a lot of small things you can do to show your support for them and that includes, just if you have to come into the hospital, be kind to the screeners who are just doing their jobs, be nice to your healthcare teams, and just listen to their advice.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran