Ned Olney: 70 years after opening to fight polio, Crotched Mountain combats COVID-19

In 1953, the doors were first opened at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center. Crotched Mountain’s founder, Harry Alan Gregg, had a vision for a unique facility that would bring care and healing to children and adults suffering from polio. And now, here we are nearly 70 years later, combatting another virus.

Crotched Mountain is not alone in this fight. We see the stories, both nationally and locally, as similar organizations supporting those living with disabilities are engaged in a generational struggle that shows no mercy to the most vulnerable. That is the pernicious nature of COVID-19, and why we and our friends and partners from across New Hampshire are working so hard to build a fortress around our clients and residents.

And like those other organizations, the vanguard of this conflict is made up of the direct care staff who devote themselves to the individuals in their charge. As we struggle to save lives and protect our residents and staff, I have seen the very best of the human spirit. I have watched first-hand as our courageous and compassionate direct care staff answer the call every day, putting others before themselves, doing all they can to preserve routine and comfort to the people we serve.

Across the landscape of healthcare heroism – and there are so many heroes in this conflict – the direct care workforce should be celebrated. They devote their lives to providing for the social, emotional, and basic health needs of those who are unable to care for themselves. It is far from an easy job; add a pandemic to the mix and what they are doing every day, every shift, every hour, is Herculean. To the direct care staff at Crotched Mountain and all across our state, I thank you.

It is difficult to see through to the other side of the pandemic, as Crotched Mountain is still suffering with the pain and loss that we have experienced first hand. But when we are through this, and we will get through this, there will be many stories to tell – stories of selflessness and sacrifice, stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in service of one another. We will be proud of the work that we have done.

I want to recognize the outpouring of support we have had from the community – our leaders in the State, private companies, and individuals, many of whom have donated needed medical supplies and funds. Your kindness is felt deeply and profoundly across our Crotched Mountain family. Thank you for wrapping your arms around us.

Finally, I would like to leave you with a poem titled “Morning,” written by a young man named Eugene Lalande who was a resident of Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in the early 1950s. I find it particularly apt today.

I hear the pure morning.
The waking birds sing,
The red squirrel scampers
And distant bells ring.

I feel the pure morning,
Cool breezes pass by.
I feel quick excitement
As she mounts to the sky.

I see the pure morning
so dainty and sweet.
See misty valleys
When night doth retreat.

Ned Olney is the President and CEO of Crotched Mountain Foundation.

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