Hailey Sohn of Pleasanton is a team member of Project Thank You, started by two UC Berkeley seniors to let health care workers know they are appreciated for taking care of others and even endangering their own health.
"Medical workers are under immense strain and are witnessing a lot of trauma as they are fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic," said Sohn, a 2020 Foothill grad and now a freshman at UC Santa Barbara, doing her classes from home.
"With that in mind, Project Thank You is a campaign to show gratitude to the healthcare workers with messages acknowledging them via letters, art, music, poetry, etc., from schoolchildren."
Her team, formed in October, has 10 students from colleges across the country, she explained. They meet online each Saturday morning to discuss their activities during the past week and to make plans.
Sohn works as an outreach coordinator, contacting both the schools to solicit the thank-you art and the medical facilities for recipients.
"Contacting the schools is easy," she said. "They have emails on their websites. When I reached out to principals they would send an email to all the teachers or contact them individually."
"In the beginning we said elementary schools, then we realized that all school children should be involved, from preschool through high-schoolers," she added.
Fairlands Elementary in Pleasanton has been a major contributor.
"It has about 750 kids — that's where we got the most cards in the beginning," she said.
Finding recipients was more difficult.
"In the beginning, it was tough to contact them since we didn't have emails to work with. A lot of websites listed foundations or philanthropic groups," Sohn recalled. "There was a lot of cold calling. But now we get lots of responses."
The program was designed to not add to teachers' workloads: Team members can work with the students, taking them and the teachers through each step of the process. The submissions are collected online and delivered digitally, so there is no cost for envelopes, stamps or delivery.
The thank-you notes and artwork are sent in digital folders, and it is up to each hospital to deliver the messages as they see fit.
"They are able to print them out if they want to and post them on a bulletin board," Sohn said. "Or they can keep them virtual and display them on a screen."
Sohn has long been appreciative of health workers since she has been a volunteer at Kaiser Permanente, and her parents are both hospital administrators.
"They have come home with stories about their staff so I have a second-hand perspective of things going on in the hospitals," she said.
"I am a pre-biology major, a pre-med track, so I want to support them as I will hopefully become one of them in the future," she added. "I know some people forget health care workers are human. We want to appreciate them for their hard efforts."
The Project Thank You teams have been successful.
"So far, we received 2,000-plus thank you letters from about 900 schools and reached about 200 hospitals," Sohn said.
Now they are expanding, and she is contacting colleges through their websites and Facebook.
"We're trying to make our way across the nation. Now we are on the East coast and the Midwest. I will be a co-leader for our Midwest team," Sohn said. "Two colleges have emailed me back saying they would love to advertise."
For more information, visit projectthankyou.editorx.io/covid.