The flashing lights of police cars and fire engines were unmistakable at St. Charles Parish Hospital Monday night. In this instance it didn’t signify emergency, but a show of support, solidarity and gratitude.
A parade for St. Charles Parish’s first responders coordinated by the non-profit group One Team, One Fight flowed down Paul Maillard Road and through hospital grounds Monday night, as more than 100 first responders participated in the event. That number included police, EMS and firefighter personnel, as first responder efforts to battle the threat of COVID-19 were applauded and appreciated.
Included in the parade were more than 15 fire trucks to go with several police vehicles and ambulances. St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne led the parade, which even had a flyover aircraft to add punctuation to the festivities.
One Team, One Fight was formed to support first responders in St. Charles Parish, and would traditionally be holding its annual fundraising crawfish cook-off event in the spring. But with that on hold for the time being, the group shifted gears for now, with an eye on rescheduling the cook-off for later this year.
“It’s a way to show our thanks and gratitude for each other, and to show our appreciation of being on the front lines and doing this every day, with no questions asked,” said Natalie Wright, a committee chair with One Team, One Fight and an ER nurse herself. “This was a way to do that while still social distancing and have nobody gathering.”
Each first responder, which also included hospital staff amongst a total of nine departments involved, received a meal donated by The River Room and a goodie bag donated by G. Smith Motorsports.
Balancing the desire to show support and complying with Louisiana’s distancing measures was the challenge, but one Wright said was solved in short order.
“We wanted to figure out how to do something without going against government orders. And looking at all the birthday parades going on, and not wanting to put anyone at risk, this was the result,” said Wright, an ER nurse. “Everyone was on board. We put it all together in a week. We called to a lot of contacts who were supporting our crawfish boil events, and they’ve all been donating throughout this whole pandemic. They want to continue to show their support and that they love our community and love our first responders.”
Wright said the decision was made to not make the event widely publicized beforehand as to not draw too many supporters and thus make the environment potentially crowded.
“We didn’t want to expand it out too much further,” Wright said. “We would love the entire community to be out in support, but we didn’t want it to get out of hand with so many people on the grounds to where it’s not able to happen. We told a few people who asked they were more than welcome to join.”
When One Team, One Fight is ultimately able to hold its fundraising crawfish boil again, one might expect it to do very well – even beyond the public showing appreciation for the responders’ recent contributions, as the event has grown in attendance in each of its first three years. The event raises money to benefit a group including the parish’s Sheriff’s Office, fire departments, Fraternal Order of Police, hospital emergency services and EMS personnel.