APPLETON (NBC26) -- Emergency crews are paying tribute to hospital workers in Appleton by letting them know they always have someone to lean on.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, "Lean on Me" rang out over the radio outside ThedaCare Regional Medical Center. The music came from emergency vehicles that surrounded the hospital, lights flashing as dozens of first responders sang along.
"What we want them to do is lean on us," said Chief Lowell James, Black Creek Police Department.
James organized the Lean on Me event to support all hospital employees, from doctors and nurses to administrative staff and volunteers, as they battle a large influx of patients from the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
The celebration was also inspired by a friend, who currently works as a nurse.
"She told me it's long days. She's very tired," James said. "They're going to get tired. They're going to get fatigued. They need to know we really are behind them."
The surprise drew some hospital staff outside where they were greeted with many "thank you" messages. Many watched from interior windows inside the building.
"One of the clinicians grabbed me and told me how humbled she was that first responders would take the time to honor them when they're so important to this fight as well," said Dale Gisi, ThedaCare central region senior vice president. "These times can be challenging, but to have things like this that help us appreciate that we're all in this together and everyone is working as a team was really uplifting."
With the wave of a hand and expression of gratitude, heroes are supporting heroes through these difficult times.
James said 45 police, fire and EMS departments from around the Fox Valley region participated in the event. Crews also visited Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton at the same time Tuesday night.