When Pamela O’Leary, South Shore Bank Executive Vice President and COO and Vice-Chair of South Shore Health’s Board of Directors, read about Project Gratitude’s incredible mission to thank our South Shore Health workers, she became emotional. Almost 100 handmade lawn signs decorate the campus of South Shore Hospital, and the endeavor was spearheaded by a preschooler: Braden Hussey of Rockland.
“It takes my breath away to think of what is going on inside the hospital right now during the coronavirus pandemic, and the incredible work our health care workers are doing,” says O’Leary. “When I heard that a four-year-old boy had rallied his peers to show our community’s gratitude, I was overwhelmed.”
It all began when Braden, whose father, Chris, is on the front lines as a firefighter and paramedic, wanted to make a sign to thank the workers who put themselves at risk to protect everyone else. “I’m grateful,” he told his mother, Janelle. “They’re doing their jobs so I can stay home and be safe.”
And his heart didn’t stop there: he decided to get his Saint Paul School classmates involved, as well. When Janelle suggested that they collect Amazon boxes for everyone to draw on as signs, Braden was already thinking steps ahead: “Those won’t last if it rains,” he told his mother. “How can we make signs that will last?”
Janelle started researching local places that would repurpose misprinted, weatherproof lawn signs that people had thrown away. When they contacted Anchor Press of Norwell, its owner, Bill Files, couldn’t wait to create brand-new signs from the students’ artwork: “I will print as many signs as Braden and his classmates make.” Conscious of social distancing, Files provided a box of paper that Janelle and Braden distributed to 48 families in nine different towns. After the students had created their thankful works of art, the Husseys left 130 posters at Anchor Press’ doorstep. “This beautiful endeavor morphed into something bigger than all of us,” Files says.
Jessica Symonds, South Shore Health Foundation Senior Director, and Scott Regan, South Shore Health Internal Communications Manager, via social distancing, met Braden and Janelle at South Shore Hospital to distribute the signs. As they lined South Shore Hospital’s walkways with the heartfelt works of gratitude, hospital workers were banging on windows and giving thumbs up. Landscape workers said, “Good job, buddy!” through their masks. The tribute was videoed so it could be shared with the Saint Paul School students who helped make Project Gratitude possible. On the way home, Braden began to cry. “We did it, Mom,” he said.
“It was humbling for all of us,” says Janelle. “We were expressing our gratitude and seeing others’ gratitude at the same time.”
Regan says that the signs remind the workers why they’re doing what they’re doing every day. “They give the people working here a sense of inspiration that can be hard to find during this time. At the end of a long day, they make the staff smile as they walk to their cars. We’re all blown away that a child that young has such an understanding of gratitude and empathy.”
For O’Leary, Project Gratitude exemplifies what it means to be part of a legacy of caring. “I was born at South Shore Hospital and grew up in Weymouth. My family has been fully engaged with the system through my entire lifetime; I delivered all my children there and the care provided to my dad during his final days was amazing. Even before the coronavirus, I have been astounded by what the staff of South Shore Health does to advance mental and physical health care and keep our community safe by providing quality care each and every day. When I was asked to join the Hospital Board several years back and to step into the Vice-Chair of the Board last year, I said yes without hesitation.”
O’Leary and the entire staff of South Shore Bank are inspired by the Hussey family and the students of Saint Paul School. “Their acts make our community better and show selflessness,” says O’Leary. “They are saying, ‘We can make a difference,’ which is how we feel at the bank. We really can make it through the tough times.”