The Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation and First Descents announced that applications are now open for participation in the “Hero Recharge” program, a first-of-its-kind outdoor adventure program designed to help nurses and other healthcare professionals cope with significant traumatic stress resulting from being on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Descents, the global leader in adventure-based healing and existing partner of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, will use a $200,000 grant from the Foundation to create wellness programs aimed at nurturing supportive peer relationships and better positioning healthcare professionals to carry out their important work. The program will serve 1,000 healthcare professionals on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic’s hardest hit locations such as, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and other cities. For more information and to apply, healthcare professionals may visit this site.

Mental health within the healthcare community has taken a sharp decline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on healthcare employees in China. This group is experiencing symptoms of distress (71.5%), depression (50.4%), anxiety (44.6%) and insomnia (34%), and female healthcare workers were among those particularly prone to problems, the study found.

“Doctors, nurses, and first responders are on the front lines of the most devastating health crisis of our generation,” says Ryan O’Donoghue, executive director of First Descents. “In partnership with the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, our goal is to address this trauma through unforgettable outdoor adventures that will nurture supportive peer relationships and give these heroes the respite and renewal they deserve.”

“The healing power of outdoor adventure is real, and exactly what my colleagues and I need to help us through this storm,” adds Mary Beth Spinos, Nurse Practitioner and First Descents Volunteer. “This program gives us something to look forward to – the chance to recreate in wild places with people who understand what it’s like to be on the frontlines of this crisis.”

With programming from rock climbing to whitewater rafting, a variety of adventures coupled with expert-guided support is meant to help healthcare professionals process grief, anxiety, and loss during single and multi-day adventure retreats.

“With our extraordinary partner First Descents, we want to acknowledge the unwavering commitment of nurses and healthcare professionals across the country by giving them the much-needed support and reprieve they deserve,” says Kari McHugh, executive director of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation. “With our deepest gratitude, Hero Recharge will offer healthcare professionals the opportunity to enjoy outdoor adventure activities in beautiful, natural settings at no cost.”

Hero Recharge programs are scheduled to begin in August 2020 and will include precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission between participants and the community, including pre-program medical testing. Certain Hero Recharge programs will be inclusive of first responders’ children and other family members, many of whom may have also experienced trauma due to the crisis.

As part of its response to the pandemic, the Foundation activated $1.25 million in emergency grants for health and hunger relief organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 relief effort. The Foundation and Dunkin’ franchisees have also delivered hundreds of thousands of free cups of coffee and donuts to more than 300 hospitals and emergency sites across the U.S. On National Nurses Day, May 6, Dunkin’ will offer a free medium hot or iced coffee and a free donut – no purchase necessary – to all healthcare workers who visit participating Dunkin’ restaurants nationwide, while supplies last.

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