Honoring our heroes


ROCHELLE – To show appreciation and support for healthcare workers continuing to work through the pandemic, the City of Rochelle organized a community vehicle parade through town. 

The parade took place on Tuesday, May 12 at 2 p.m., starting at the Rochelle Middle School and heading down School Avenue to loop around the Rochelle Community Hospital and multiple local nursing homes. After looping around the hospital, the parade went down Caron Road, passed the Rochelle Gardens and finished at Hawthorn Inn on Flagg Road. 

The Rochelle Police, Rochelle Fire Department and Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows led the parade, but all members of the community were encouraged to decorate their vehicles and participate. With this week being National Hospital Week and last week being National Nurses Week, this was a perfect opportunity for everybody to show their support. 

“We were talking about different things we could do for a way to honor our healthcare workers,” said Bearrows. “Everybody has time on their hands and they could certainly be a part of a parade to honor the Rochelle Community Hospital and healthcare workers everywhere. That includes all workers at the assisted living and the nursing homes as well.” 

While the parade was led by the city and local law enforcement, it was members of the community who made it special. Many residents, businesses and organizations came out to show support for the hardworking healthcare workers. 

Vehicles were covered in window paint, had many handmade signs and both police sirens and car horns were constantly going off. Among the groups of people participating in the parade were third and fourth-semester nursing students from Kishwaukee College.

The group of nursing students all wore matching T-shirts and decorated multiple vehicles for the parade. The students originally had a plan to go to Springfield for a Political Action Day rally, but were unable to go due to the COVID-19 closure. While they were unable to attend the rally, this parade is the next best way for them to show support. 

“We had shirts made and all of this stuff planned to go down for the rally, it was a big event we were supposed to attend,” said Tina Neale, Kishwaukee College nursing student. “Unfortunately, we were unable to do that, so we were trying to find things we could do as a group to show support and came across the parade.”

Also participating in the parade were longtime Rochelle residents Jim and Shirley Brown. The two regularly visit the local nursing homes and since they have been unable to during the stay-at-home order, this was their way of supporting the nursing homes. 

“The nursing home has been such an important part of our life for so long, we felt the need to participate to show our appreciation for all that they do,” said Shirley Brown. 

During the parade, many residents came out of their homes to hold signs and wave to the vehicles as they drove past. Employees of the Rochelle Community Hospital did the same with as many available staff members as possible. 

Anybody working at the hospital during the time of the parade, that was able to come out and witness it, did so. All sides of the hospital had employees waving as the vehicles drove by, honking and holding their signs. Many of the hospital employees were very emotional when they saw the amount of support from the entire community. 

“It was hard to tell because there were staff on all sides of the building, but I would say we had 60 or more staff members out there,” said Michelle LaPage, manager of community and organizational development. “I got several emails afterwards from staff that was out there, they thought it was a really kind, heartwarming gesture.” 

This parade is a great example of what a community can do when they come together to show support during tough times. The city would like to give a big thank you to the entire community for its support and patience as everybody is affected by this situation. 

“As mayor of the city, I want to say a huge thank you to all of the residents because I know this is difficult on everybody,” said Bearrows. “There is not just one group that is impacted, this affects all of us. I really appreciate the cooperation that most all the citizens in our community has given. We are working hard every day to move forward and get this community back on track as soon as possible, while maintaining the safety of everybody.”