Ascension Spirit crew serves appreciation lunch to Rhinelander-area EMS workersSubmitted: 05/22/2018

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RHINELANDER - The combination of a hot grill and some ice-cold refreshment tempted hungry healthcare workers outside Ascension St. Mary's Hospital in Rhinelander late Tuesday morning.

"It feels great to have somebody appreciate the work that you do," Oneida County EMT Leah Foster said.

The Ascension Spirit team cooked up a free brat lunch (with donated Trig's Somkehouse brats) for any emergency medical service workers who wanted to eat.  Spirit's lunch was part of National EMS week, giving the medical transport provider the chance to say 'thank you' to the workers they call heroes.

"They have that desire to help people in their greatest time of need," Spirit EMS Outreach Coordinator Matt Thompson said.

Spirit planned to put on the appreciation lunch months ago, but it was the hosts -- the Spirit team themselves -- who could use the support of their own.

"It's going to take some time for our crew," Thompson said.

The cookout came a little more than three weeks after the Spirit 2 medical helicopter crashed in the woods near Hazelhurst. Pilot Rico Caruso, flight nurse Klint Mitchell, and flight medic Greg Rosenthal were all killed in the April 26 crash.

"Really done some soul searching because they lost not one, not two, but three really close friends," Thompson said.

Close friends who St. Mary's Emergency Room nurses Tory Collins and Dan Arndorfer are honoring as people they consider heroes, too.

"Even though Spirit 2 was based out of Howard Young [Medical Center in Woodruff], they touched all the hospitals," Arndorfer said.

The nursing duo designed t-shirts, then got them printed at-cost through Creative Screenprinting in Crandon, where Collins' mother is a co-owner. The shirts cost $15 and all proceeds go to families of the Spirit crash victims. Collins estimates they've sold between 300 to 400 of the shirts just to hospital employees across northern Wisconsin.

"For years to come people will be able to still remember, they will not be forgotten," Collins said of Caruso, Mitchell, and Rosenthal.

Even as the grill cooled and the food disappeared Tuesday afternoon, it was clear -- just like the memory of Spirit's crew -- the mutual respect between Spirit and EMS around the Northwoods will never fade.

"They're the ones who will rush to the scene of an accident before anyone else will," Thompson said of EMS workers. "Those are the folks we need to thank each and every day."

Tuesday is the continuation of a busy week for Spirit's team. They hosted a similar event at St. Claire's Hospital in Weston. Spirit will also be at the Stevens Point Airport on Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. and at Eagle River Memorial Hospital from 5 - 7 p.m.

Those interested in ordering "Spirit 2 Strong" t-shirts from Collins and Ardorfer can visit this Facebook link or stop by Creative Screenprinting at 119 N. Lake Avenue in Crandon or Coffee Beans Etc. at 1022 Lincoln Street in Rhinelander.

Story By: Lane Kimble

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