When the COVID-19 crisis started, Mid-Island moms Alison Reilly and Lindsey Rimassa were left to home school their young children and worry about the welfare of their Firefighter spouses for a new reason.
As they looked for outlets to help teach their children about what was happening around them, they also managed to establish a new digital group of people who wanted to express their gratitude to essential workers.
“Our mission is to say, ‘Thank you’ and spread gratitude and honor to those everyday heroes that are out on the front lines, keeping our city running, keeping New York City safe,” explained Alison Reilly, the co-founder of The Essential Heroes project.
“As the wives of firemen, we know that they are often praised and acknowledged for their hard work, but during this outbreak, there’s so many other people we’ve learned stories about, incredible people, everyday people doing extraordinary things. Whether it’s a nurse, a doctor, somebody in the grocery store. We just wanted a chance to say thank you to everybody.”
The women decided to use social media to meet their mission. They created Facebook and Instagram pages for “The Essential Heroes” project where they share artwork, photos, videos and host conversations.
“We have people in California, people in Canada, people in Florida, in Chicago—all over,” said co-founder Lindsey Rimassa. “And nobody really knows everyone, but they’re coming together and they’re having this platform as a happy place for them.”
The project’s “Highlight a Hero” feature has provided an uplifting outlet for members. Friends and family members can acknowledge the hero in their lives and share stories of resilience and courage.
“It’s inspiring beyond belief,” Reilly gushed.
Much of the art showcased has been created by children. Reilly and Rimassa each have two children who have embraced the chance to draw with chalk, paint pictures and be creative with their messages of gratitude.
“They’re learning. They’re saying thank you to our heroes. These are people to look up to. These are people we want to admire,” said Rimassa.
Due to the nature of the project, families have to come together to work on sharing stories and making art. As parents, the founders of “The Essential Heroes” have found the whole experience therapeutic.
“I feel like as adults our whole worlds are upside down. Our schedules are different, our routines are different, and it’s a lot to deal with as an adult,” said Reilly. “I feel like art is so universal. Everybody can find their own way to do it and it reaches everybody in any age group.”
Even though the project was formed during uncertain times, the founders are sure they want to keep it going. They plan to continue growing their community and making sure unsung heroes who responded to COVID-19 are recognized for years to come.
“This is going to affect everyone for the rest of their lives. We’re always going to remember this. And we don’t want these people to be forgotten about. We want them to always be acknowledged,” says Rimassa. “We want those stories to keep going, we want to stay connected to all those people.”
Photo courtesy @theessentialheroes on Instagram.