Talk about a big hug. There were so many people ready to give St. Martha’s Regional Hospital an affectionate squeeze on Sunday, organizers kept asking participants to take a few steps back from building, so everyone could fit in smoothly.
That was one indication Together We Are More was a huge success, but there were plenty of others, during the Sunday (Sept. 15) afternoon event.
Food, music, dance and fun children activities, such as bouncy castles and face painting, enlivened the day, before and after the hug, as people shared their heartfelt appreciation for the hospital, the doctors and nurses who work there, all staff and the volunteers, such as those who help out with the foundation or auxiliary.
And while appreciation was shown for those who call St. Martha’s home now, the event was also held to encourage doctors to come onboard and join the St. Martha’s family and Antigonish community.
“This event was celebrating everyone, together, and how hard everyone has fought to keep this place as great as it is,” Dr. Tania Sullivan, an organizer of the event, said.
“And this is the first step in us coming together to make it even better in the future and keep it strong.
“It’s very obvious to most people that a community needs a hospital; however, what this is meant to highlight is how much a hospital needs its community. That was the biggest piece for us; to see our community come out and be here … it’s the ultimate inspiration for me.”
In talking about the number of people who turned out, Sullivan described it as “overwhelming.” It was a word she used on a couple of occasions.
“I guess the best thing I can say right now is, I have the most overwhelming sense of gratitude, and I couldn’t be happier … it was epic for me,” she said, as people made their way back to the upper parking lot and grounds at the hospital after the hug - which was photographed from the sky - was completed.
“This journey has been so inspirational for me in terms of getting this great event off the ground,” Sullivan added.
“All of the people who have been so supportive, instrumental in making it happen, then to see it come to fruition in such a fantastical way as it has today, I have no words.
“I cried so many times today – tears of absolute joy – because it’s exactly what we were striving for; that sense of hope, that sense of togetherness.”
Amongst those taking part was Steve Smith, chair of the St. Martha’s and You … The Time is NOW campaign.
“Today really shows what people think of our hospital,” Smith said. “When they were talking about arms outstretched to reach around the hospital, you couldn’t even just hold someone’s hand, it was shoulder to shoulder … it was an awesome turnout. People love St. Martha’s.
“Certainly the commitment of our doctors, nurses, staff and our foundation and auxiliary, is tremendous. I can’t say enough good and wonderful things about St. Martha’s.”
Seeing or hearing appreciation for the hospital is pretty much a daily occurrence for the campaign chair.
“People have been so generous and we’re not done; you’re never done when you’re talking about support for your local hospital because the need is getting larger and larger, as our population ages,” Smith said.
“It’s so important that we not only have a great facility with great equipment, but that we can attract new doctors here and that is what this is all about today. Every new doctor that visits here, comes to take a look at St. Martha’s, the foundation meets with them and says ‘what can we do for you to help you make the decision to come here.’”
Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher was also among the huggers.
“This is amazing; what a day for Antigonish and what a day for not only St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, but the physicians, nurses and staff at the hospital,” Boucher said. “You can always count on the Antigonish community to come out and show support, and today was certainly that.
“We’ve gathered together as a community to tell all the workers at the hospital that we’re behind them, we appreciate the work they’re doing for us and our community, and we’re all in this together.”
Resident Paul Purcell noted both his parents worked at the hospital for 30-plus years and recalls him and his brother “running around the hallways.”
“I feel like everyone in this town has a connection to someone who could say, if it wasn’t for this doctor so and so wouldn’t be here today; or the treatment we received from this nurse at St. Martha’s made my stay a whole lot better,” Purcell said.
“We have things at this hospital other people have to come to Antigonish for; so to see a turnout like this to show support and ensure we still have these assets right in our backyard, is supper important. It was really nice to see such a big turnout.”
Cordis MacDonald said the hospital means so much to all of Antigonish and is a big part of the community.
“It was great to be part of today, absolutely,” she said. “If there is anything we can do to help, we’ll do our part because we want to sustain our healthcare.”
Johanna Duggan said it’s nice to see people she went to school with in Antigonish working as doctors and nurses at her hometown hospital.
“Everyone who works here is friendly and has a positive attitude,” she said. “Whether the nurses have been working for two hours or 10 hours, non-stop, everyone has a positive attitude; so it’s great seeing everyone helping each other out.”