ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — UW Health held something special Wednesday for their employees hard hit by the last two years of COVID-19.

It was the perfect day for a picnic as UW Health SwedishAmerican Hospital honored and celebrated their front-line workers for their dedication during the pandemic.

“Getting out here, to be here with the staff and just having fun and just really living it up today, that’s what we are doing,” said Anna Taylor, director of care management at SwedishAmerican.

Taylor said that the past two years have been hard in the health industry with COVID stifling many things, but to spend time with the staff, seeing each others’ faces, felt amazing.

“Just to be able to say thank you for those front-line people, it’s not just the nurses right, you know, it’s the EVS workers, it’s the respiratory therapist, it’s the techs,” Taylor said. “Everybody working together to get through this and care for the community.”

Taylor said that it was great to see everyone working together to give and receive appreciation like this and bring life back into health care.

“You know, our own staff cooked the meal, our leadership served the meal and other volunteers, and it was just an opportunity to stay thankful for everyone on the front lines,” said Travis Andersen, president and CEO of UE Health Northern Illinois. “And, so, the vibe is amazing and I feel like I’m getting to know people again.”

Andersen said that the picnic was not only a way to say thanks, but it also gave staff a chance to get to know each other again and build healthy work relationships.

“We’re 3,700 strong that are here all day, all night, all weekend through years of COVID, through years of change,” Andersen said.

Both Andersen and Taylor believe that the stateline is finally able to move on from COVID-19 and get back to normal.

“Now that we are able to move on to this phase, we can do it with a new gusto and we can prevail, and this is day one of that,” Taylor said.

Andersen said that this was just the start of showing their staff appreciation, with many more community events to come.