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Longfellow Elementary supports health care workers, patients with pre-Thanksgiving parade

Students and staff members from Longfellow Elementary School held a parade for health care workers from Avera on Wednesday in Mitchell. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

Lisa Heckenlaible passed the Avera Mitchell campus on her path to school at Longfellow Elementary School growing up.

Her mother was a nurse and she taught a firm understanding of the importance of the health care workers in those buildings. Now the principal at Longfellow, Heckenlaible and her staff decided to impart the same understanding to more than 300 students Wednesday.

Longfellow’s students and staff — except those in quarantine — walked a half mile to the Avera campus, armed with signs and letters to show appreciation to the health care workers.

The Mitchell Public Safety and Fire Department blocked off Foster Street by Avera Queen of Peace and then did the same at East Seventh Street for a parade, with Longfellow students on one sidewalk and health care workers from AQOP and Firesteel Healthcare Center on the opposite sidewalk.


“I grew up in this neighborhood. My mom was a nurse and I knew what it meant for these health care workers to have the support from littles,” Heckenlaible said. “We just really thank them for being role models that our kids can look up to with caring, compassionate hearts.”

Parades have become a common occurrence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Mitchell School District has taken part in similar events in the past eight months. Longfellow holds learning dens, with many of the themes on listening and understanding another person’s circumstances.

Firesteel Healthcare Center dietary aide Ashley Jenson hugs her son, Landen Wright, during a parade by Longfellow Elementary School for health care workers on Wednesday in Mitchell. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

The staff and students have discussed compassion for health care workers and patients battling COVID-19, which spawned the idea of a parade for workers who would be away from their families on Thanksgiving.

“We just wanted to share our gratitude and our warm hearts for them,” Heckenlaible said. “... We know they’re going to be lonely over Thanksgiving break, and we thought this would lift up their spirits.”


Avera Queen of Peace employees wait for a parade by Longfellow Elementary School on Wednesday in Mitchell. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

Each grade and den decided how to design their signs and the school adapted a song crafted for an anti-bullying program that was sung to the workers. Every student also made a card, which could be given to a COVID-19 patient, a health care worker or nursing home residents at Avera Brady and Firesteel.

“We have studied the habits of mind and our children understand what it means to persist,” Heckenlaible said. “When they’re ill, (the children) want the COVID patients to persist and keep working hard to get well. Our kids truly know what it means to have an empathetic heart and they have learned to listen to each other with empathy and care about one another.”

Students and staff members from Longfellow Elementary School held a parade for health care workers from Avera on Wednesday in Mitchell. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

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