HOMETOWN HEROES: Philadelphia nurses spread joy with 'Sunshine Committee'

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Thursday, August 13, 2020
HOMETOWN HEROES: Philadelphia nurses spread joy with 'Sunshine Committee'
HEARTWARMING: Two Philadelphia nurses started the "Sunshine Committee" to boost the spirits of co-workers and hospital guests during the pandemic.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There's a certain level of stress that accompanies walking into a hospital during a pandemic, a feeling of uncertainty that nurses Erin Donohue and Allie Toczylowski wanted to shake. Both work at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

"At first we were all super anxious and nervous to take care of these patients," said Donohue. "We had to find a way to deal with it mentally and emotionally."

Known in their unit for their smiles and positivity, the two could feel the weight around them, and they wanted to bring back a little light.

READ MORE: Officer stays with dying elderly woman hit by truck in Port Richmond

"It's been over a week now and I still get a little choked," said Officer Francis Lynch who stayed with a dying woman after she was hit by a truck in Philadelphia.

"Erin and I decided to take this shift in the workplace and try to find some positivity out of it, and from there came the 'Sunshine Committee,'" said Toczylowski.

"What we decided to do was some chalk art in the parking garages and little notes in the hospital just to brighten peoples' days and remind them that we're all in this together and we'll make the best of it," said Donohue.

The impact on their coworkers was pretty immediate.

"It's so nice as you're walking into work to see a little message that says 'you got this' and you know that someone else is going through the same thing that you are," said Toczylowski.

When Donohue and Toczylowski started this project, it was a way for them to boost up their coworkers, but it didn't take too long to figure out the rest of the community could use a little sunshine, too.

READ MORE: Camden school food service director helping to feed families during pandemic

Arlethia Brown is part of a 50-person team preparing 25,000 meals a week for students and their families in Camden.

"We were giving away $20 gift cards out of our own pockets," said Donohue, who explained at that point, they started reaching out to local businesses to sponsor their "Positivity Challenges" on Instagram.

"We got so many products from so many different companies and we would just say, 'tell us what you're doing to stay positive today' and we'd pick a random winner," added Donohue.

It's just a small gift, a simple smile, or a few words written in chalk, but it's enough to give some healthcare heroes a boost of confidence during their long walk into work.

"In a time where I was feeling scared and stressed and unsure of what my future held as far as being at work, bringing joy to other people really turned my mindset around and made the whole experience a lot easier," said Toczylowski.

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