In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA frontline health care workers bravely cared for patients, while scientific experts wrestled with how the novel coronavirus spreads and how to best protect people, particularly those working with COVID-19 patients. These dedicated clinicians remained steadfast in their commitment to the community, providing the exceptional health care that is the hallmark of UCLA Health. At the end of those tiring and tense days, who wouldn’t need a hug?
Enter longtime UCLA donor Dominique Wirtschafter and her teenage daughter Kauri. Recognizing the emotional toll the pandemic was taking on health care workers, the Wirtschafter family made a $10,000 contribution to establish the Healthcare Hugs program. UCLA Health employees acknowledged by patients and families received “hugs” through small gifts — a gift card to pick up essentials, a self-care package or a fitness bundle. The family’s contributions alone provided gifts for 200 employees through this program. Many of the hug recipients have shared immense gratitude for the kind gesture.
“As a high school student, this pandemic has really shown me how much UCLA health care workers tirelessly work to keep our communities healthy and safe,” said Kauri. “When I saw all of the pressure and strain it put on them, I knew I couldn’t just sit back and let them power through this alone. They needed a hug.” To raise additional funds, Kauri started a Spark campaign. To get the word out, she challenged her fellow students to offer a hug of their own by sending the Healthcare Hugs link to three friends every day after their remote school day ended. To date, the program has raised more than $8,000 toward their $25,000 goal.
“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the most valuable thing we all have is our health,” said Wirtschafter, vice chair of the UCLA Health-Santa Monica Medical Center Board of Advisors. “We owe it to the UCLA health care workers to not only thank them, but to make sure they know that their health and happiness is at the forefront of our minds.” Through their creativity and generosity, the Wirtschafter family has shown that a hug is only a click away.
For more information, contact Lauren Davis Sweeney at: 310-339-4755