Whether inspired by Vincent Atchity, president and chief executive officer of Mental Health Colorado, who urged state residents not to “miss this chance to practice active kindness to all” or merely relying
on the innate goodness within us all, hundreds if not thousands of Coloradans rallied to help lift spirits and allay fears during the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging in heartwarming projects large and small.
Here are some of them. We pray that by the time you read this, the pandemic has subsided and the examples in this story are but a memory of the good side of a grave situation.
Shopkeepers along a stretch of South Broadway in Denver turned what could have been a dismal and depressing sight into something cheerful and bright by painting pictures and spray-painting poems on the plywood used to board up doors and windows on their shuttered places of business.
A group of moms in Denver’s May- fair neighborhood organized a “zoo walk” as a means of entertaining their kiddos. It involved having residents place stuffed animals in their windows for children—and adults—to enjoy as they strolled the streets of this East Denver enclave. Viewings of “Red Panda,” “Sparkly Bunny” and “Moo Moo Moose” and others proved so popular that adjoining neighborhoods, including Hale, Congress Park, Montclair and Park Hill, quickly established zoo walks of their own.
It’s “little things like this that make the long days of social distancing much more fun for these kiddos,” observed Mayfair resident Crystal Whittenburg.
Literally within hours after sending out a query on the Nextdoor web- site to see if anyone in the Lowry neighborhood would be willing to help her support a local restaurant by donating any amount they felt comfortable giving so that she could purchase meals that she’d deliver to emergency room staffers at Rose Medical Center, Laurie Kagan’s inbox was flooded with replies. Before long a plan was in place to further support all of the Lowry-area restaurants— including Lowry Beer Garden, Café Mercato, Officers Club and North County—by purchasing from them for additional deliveries to those staffing the hospital’s intensive care unit and operating rooms.
The Colorado Symphony created a viral sensation with a YouTube video featuring 49 of its musicians performing Beethoven’s final symphony, Ode to Joy. It was no ordinary performance, though. Each musician recorded themselves playing his or her part in their respective homes and, says symphony spokesman Nick Dobreff, with the segments combined in post-production, creating the sound and experience of a full symphony.
The piece, Dobreff adds, has been performed “on other solemn occasions, including Tiananmen Square in Beijing and in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
In a similar vein, quarantined students at Berklee College of Music in Boston recorded a goosebumps-inducing rendition of the Burt Bacharach classic, “What the World Needs Now.” It also can be viewed on YouTube.
On the national level, country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood had 1 million fans tune in for a Facebook Live concert broadcast from their home studio; its success prompted CBS to engage them for a televised special that resulted in a $1 million donation to coronavirus relief charities. Elton John’s iHeart Living Room Concert for America, with performances by superstars Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and others, also raised money for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. New York’s Metropolitan Opera had nightly live-streamed performances.
Locally, popular Denver vocalist Hazel Miller kicked off a series of weekly Facebook Live performances with “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Singer-songwriter Hallie Spoor, daughter of Denverites Ann and Mark Spoor, gave virtual concerts every Friday night in April, live from her Brooklyn, N.Y., bedroom. She also offered donation-based, online ukulele classes, teaching students songs like “Let It Be” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Older adults living at The Residences at University Hills took a cue from the Italians and went out on their balconies to participate in an early evening singalong of patriotic songs.
Olympic gold medalist and World Cup alpine skier Mikaela Shriffrin joined other athletes in the Kindness in Crisis auction, donating proceeds from the sale of such things as her Oakley goggles, Bose Quiet Comfort headphones and a Killington Mountain World Cup slalom leader bid to the Colorado COVID-19 Relief Fund and Food Bank of the Rockies.
Rob Katz, chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, and his wife, wellness guru and New York Times best-selling author Elana Amsterdam, donated $1.5 million to be distributed through their Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust to recipients that include Help Colorado Now, the Eagle Valley Community Foundation, the Summit Foundation and the Community Foundation of Gunnison Valley. In addition, they gave $1 million to the Epic Promise Employee Foundation to establish a new fund that will provide additional assistance to Vail Resorts employees impacted by COVID-19.
“I cannot recall another moment in my lifetime that has caused so much disruption to our lives—to our work, to our health and to our communities,” Katz said in announcing the donation.
When Starbucks closed 80 of its stores that didn’t have a drive-through service option, QDC, one of the company’s main suppliers, brought a truckload of fresh prepared food and milk to Food Bank of the Rockies for sorting and distribution by such FBR volunteers as Paul Berteau, who has shown up every day as he is able for 22 years.
Food for Thought, founded by Bob Bell and John Thielen and staffed by 7,000 volunteers, delivered bags of food to students from 53 Denver Public Schools every Friday. Bags filled with jars of peanut butter, cans of soup, oatmeal, crackers and canned fruit were given out at the 12 designated pickup locations.
Social media platforms like Zoom afforded friends the opportunity to connect via virtual brunches, lunches and happy hours. Birthday parties, anniversaries, even weddings, were celebrated this way, too. Apps and Facebook Live enabled folks to get their exercise in thanks to gyms like 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness. Denver-based Bodies by Perseverance enrolled clients for customized online classes.
Denver Public Library had live storytimes every Friday on YouTube; the Museum of Contemporary Art had weekly art challenges where supporters could draw, collage, photograph, paint or animate a project to be shared on the museum’s Instagram account. Denver Botanic Gardens president Brian Vogt led visitors on a virtual tour of its soon-to-open Freyer-Newman Center and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Arts provided virtual looks at its collections.
Joanne Davidson is appreciative of the many online services and entertainment opportunities offered over these past few months. But even more, she is so very grateful for the selflessness and dedication of those on the front lines. We are forever in their debt.
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