Melisa Quintanilla, a registered NICU nurse at Ascension All Saints Hospital, knows what sacrifices go into being a healthcare worker. She set up this event, as a way to give back to her colleagues, and those on the frontlines. 

What started as a Facebook event called “Flashing First Fridays” turned into a community event for many Racine residents and hospital staff. 

Her unwavering fighting spirit drove her to set up this gesture as a way to say thank you. The event was held on April 3 at the Ascension All Saints campus. Racine residents were encouraged to decorate their cars and creatively show their appreciation for doctors, nurses, and personnel. 

A group of 50 individuals from Racine were expected to participate by parading, honking, and flashing their lights, in the parking lot, as a way to show their support to the Ascension healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quintanilla, also a breast cancer survivor, knows what it is like to be on the patient side of the story. Her experiences as a nurse and former patient have given her the eyes to see good in every situation. 

“Believe me, the positivity that has come from this far outweighed the negative,” Quintanilla said. 

Challenging times continue to increase, but that didn’t stop Quintanilla from helping her community shine. 

Quintanilla’s background in healthcare allowed her to advocate for this event safely. Residents and supporters were advised to stay in their cars. Cars flooded the parking lot at Ascension All Saints and made a parade that stretched from the parking lot to the intersection of Spring and Green Bay Road. 

Melisa Quinranilla said, “I’m so glad my kids were able to witness this. When we came home my daughter hugged me and told me she was proud of me! I told her “See it only takes 1 person, Look at what 1 person can do with a great community.”

The response from the community was overwhelming. 

“Right now, most people are feeling alone, isolated, and helpless. My husband was a paramedic for years after he got out of the Marine Corps, and still works closely with people in the healthcare system. He understands the risks and sacrifices. When we saw the invitation for the drive-through at Ascension, it wasn’t even a question as to if we would do it. As we drove by the hospital entrance, workers were standing outside, some of them were crying and just overwhelmed from the support. Everyone feels helpless and scared, but this was something that made me realize we are all in this together, and we will beat this thing,” said Valerie Neilsen, a Racine resident, and attendee. 

The Racine Police Department estimated that about 1,200 cars made their way through the parking lot. The community and healthcare workers were astonished by the event. Love, kindness, and compassion filled the city streets that night.

“That is exactly what I was trying to give healthcare workers today! There is a comfort knowing that we know what they are doing, sacrificing, and dealing with,” Quintanilla said.

Countless nurses, doctors, and staff members were touched by the event, Melisa said. 

What started as a small event, and a touch of appreciation became an event that was embodied by Racine. Quintanilla received a text from the ICU team, and they explained that this was what they needed to lift their spirits. They weren’t the only ones with lifted spirits.

Jodi Akins, a Racine resident, didn’t pass up the opportunity to pray and give thanks to local heroes. Akins stood strong and tall through her sunroof while parked in the lot at the hospital — arms lifted and stretched out wide in praise. She reached out to healthcare workers who were watching from the second floor inside the hospital. 

The Racine community rallied in the parking lot for our hometown heroes, but there is no doubt that this event touched lives beyond the hospital walls. 

To view a clip of the event from the inside the hospital, check out this video: