Photo by Todd Bush | Todd Bush Photography
The Grandfather Mountain community has come together to honor health-care heroes who have worked and risked their lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the national Random Acts of Kindness Day around the corner, Avery County school board member Ruth Ann Shirley contacted Grandfather Mountain president and executive director Jesse Pope with an idea — to create a tribute to the local health department.
“I saw on Twitter that Feb. 17 was Random Acts of Kindness Day,” Shirley said. “I hit the link, and it said send somebody a thank you note, and I thought, ‘Well, I can’t send a thank you to every medical worker in the state or area! But if I did a big, big thank you so that they all could see it, that would be just the same.”
While the original plan was to take a quick, casual photo featuring Shirley’s handcrafted luminary lights, Pope soon took the idea to new heights — literally.
To bring the vision to life, Pope called local photographer Todd Bush, who offered his talents to help make the gesture extra special.
Within hours, the team had a plan, locations scouted for the photo, and wooden letters built to help the luminaries stand out.
“We cannot thank our health-care workers and leaders across our community and state enough for the hard work and dedication to addressing COVID-19 and implementing the vaccine rollout effort,” Pope said. “Their jobs are tireless and often thankless. When most of us were staying at home last spring, they were on the front lines and have remained there for the entirety of this very stressful global pandemic.”
“From the day COVID started, they have not stopped,” Shirley added. “They live it, they see it every day, and it’s just so embedded in everything that they do. Health care workers didn’t get a break from it, and it’s been a year now, so it just kind of stuck in my heart.”
Pope invited the community at large to share its appreciation for local health-care workers by posting a photo with the hashtag #MayIThankYou.
The hashtag is also the title of the song Bush wrote specifically for the effort and is featured in a video tribute also created by Bush and shared on Grandfather Mountain’s YouTube and social media channels.
“‘May I Thank You’ is a film to health-care workers, their families and others affected by COVID, inspired by Ruth Ann Shirley’s idea,” Bush said. “So, the image, this film and song were born as my gift to their great idea and to those helping others and to those affected by this pandemic.”
Phillip Barrier, Avery County manager, also thanked local health-care workers, while encouraging others to do the same.
“I could not be prouder of Team Avery!” he said. “No Avery County government department has stepped back from the challenges COVID has brought with it. ‘Together, we are Avery’ are words in our motto, but COVID has proved it to be true.”
“Grandfather Mountain extends mile-high gratitude to our local, national and global heroes,” Pope said. “This Wednesday on Random Acts of Kindness Day, we ask folks to act deliberately with a kind gesture to these brave and dedicated individuals — be it a heartfelt ‘thank you,’ buying them a meal or simply posting the #MayIThankYou hashtag. The smallest gesture can have a tremendous impact.”
The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.