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The Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre was converted from a hockey arena to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Niagara residents

Vaccination centre staff Christina Huntington, left, and Natalie Ferraro read through some of the thousands of Post-it notes left behind by vaccinated recipients.Photography by Tara Walton/The Globe and Mail

A colourful patchwork of messages of hope, encouragement and gratitude blankets the glass of the main rink at the Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre, following its conversion from a hockey arena to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Niagara residents.

The neon mosaic stretches halfway around the rink’s protective glass and is growing daily as newly vaccinated community members leave behind short messages sharing the personal meaning of this pandemic milestone.

Vaccine recipients sit in a monitoring area for a 15-minute observation period. Each chair in the area contains a blank Post-it note and a pen. All vaccine recipients are encouraged to write a message about what receiving the vaccine means to them and to add it to the growing mosaic on the arena glass.

The Post-its are often the first and last visual for frontline workers at the beginning and end of their shifts, providing a sense of connection to the community into which they are injecting hope.

For many working at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines COVID-19 vaccination clinic, the road has been a long one, often beginning at the first assessment centres in Niagara more than a year ago.

A chair showing signs of wear from sanitation measures contains vaccine literature, a blank Post-it note and a pen in the monitoring area.

For nurse practitioner and clinical lead Christina Huntington, serving in the COVID assessment centre initially and now in the vaccination clinic is a matter of service to her community and a means of expressing thanks to her parents and grandparents who immigrated to Canada and chose Niagara as their new home. Ms. Huntington is humbled by the community’s eagerness to participate in the project and says the rainbow of notes provides a daily push to keep going.

Upon arrival, community members check in with staff and proceed to receive their vaccination at one of the stations located around the perimeter of the rink. Following the administration of the dose, patients are asked to remain for a 15-minute observation period. They are led to one of 75 chairs in the monitoring area in the centre of the arena, where a pen and sticky note await. The observation period allows time for recipients to reflect and craft their message, which they post to the arena glass on their way out.

Helen Michlik of St. Catharines anxiously awaits being reunited with her family. She has a 97-year-old mother in a locked-down retirement home that she has not been able to visit since November, and grandchildren that she previously spent time with weekly, but has seldom seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Her note reads, “Thank you frontline workers!!! Let’s beat this thing!!!”

Ms. Michlik receives her COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 40,000 community members have been vaccinated at this location and thousands of them have left their mark on the glass.

Messages of gratitude, praise and hope are left by some of the newly vaccinated Niagara health care workers, residents and other priority groups.

Here are a few notes covering the ice rink glass at Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre.

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