A star-studded concert set to air on Thanksgiving will pay tribute to health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, the Black Eyed Peas and Leslie Odom Jr. are among the artists expected to perform during the virtual concert, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.
But the real stars of the show will be an ensemble of 48 nurses from across the Northwell Health system, who will perform renditions of “Stand by Me” and “Lean on Me.”
Among them will be Christine Kippley, chief nursing officer at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.
“It’s been a rough year for nurses. Our role has really come into the spotlight,” Ms. Kippley said Tuesday. “To be nationally recognized with such big names means a lot because I see what nurses here do every single day.”
When she began her nursing career 30 years ago, Ms. Kippley knew she was signing onto a role that would see her miss holidays and force her to report to work during snowstorms, hurricanes and other disasters.
Never could she imagine a global pandemic that would have tested her faith and resolve, confronting COVID-19 head on while also contending with shortages of PPE.
At the height of the pandemic, music became a source of joy for the staff at PBMC, Ms. Kippley said. The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” became an unofficial anthem that would play over the P.A. system each time a COVID-19 patient was discharged.
“We’d hear it multiple times a day and everytime it was played, it would bring a ray of hope for us,” she said.
Ms. Kippley also lent her voice and played guitar during a private ceremony for staff to remember the Covid patients they lost, at a blessing of the hands ceremony at the hospital and dedication of Roanoke Avenue as “Heroes Way” in September.
“If there’s something I can sing at, I’m always happy to do it. It’s something I love to do.”
The concert, produced by Emilio Estefan and Times Square Live, will benefit Nurse Heroes, a foundation formed to support front line workers and address a nationwide shortage of nurses.
According to the Nurses Now website, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 the health care industry was already facing a shortage of nurses, which could grow to 1 million fewer nurses than are needed by 2022 if nothing is done. Donations will help fund nursing supplies and scholarships and Northwell Health, which employs 20,000 nurses, will be among the first beneficiaries.
The event will also feature special appearances from Billy Crystal and Oprah Winfrey and footage of Northwell Health staff during the pandemic. Taylor Swift has also donated a limited-edition Folklore guitar that will be given away.
Ms. Kippley plans to tune into the concert and watch with her immediate family on Thanksgiving as a small celebration during what’s been a trying year.
She said that despite fear and anxiety, her staff has really stepped up. “We as a hospital have really emerged from this stronger,” she said, though it’s taken a toll.
With Riverhead recently designated as a yellow hotspot zone due to rising COVID-19 cases, Ms. Kippley said they’ve been “bracing” themselves.
“My saying has been ‘Buckle up, guys.’ But the vaccine is around the corner and this time I feel there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We know what to do,” she said.
The concert will air at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 26 and will be streamed on YouTube, Facebook Live and LiveXLive.
For more information or to make a donation, visit live.nurseheroes.org.