Angela Cruz wins Employee of Year Award; day’s event includes raffles, laughs, and friendly competition.

Spring sun and a cool breeze bathed the deck of One Constitution Wharf today as dozens of MGH Institute employees enjoyed drinks, hors d'oeuvres, friendly competition, and good conversation during the annual Employee Appreciation Celebration and Cornhole Tournament.

This annual tradition provides an opportunity to pause and celebrate all the IHP has done over the academic year while having some fun with colleagues.

“I'm really so grateful that we have this time together and we can enjoy each other's company,” said President Paula Milone-Nuzzo to a packed conference room during a ceremony to unveil the Employee of the Year and raffle winners. “It's always really important for us to celebrate together as a community and we have so few times to do that, so I'm really thankful for each of you who made time during your week to participate in some of the events, to come to this event today, and to be part of the IHP community.”

Sanders Impact Practice Center Program Manager Angela Cruz beat out a dozen fellow employees to take home the Employee of the year Award, and the $2,500 cash prize that accompanies it.

Nominated by the Communication Sciences and Disorders department, Cruz was called selflessly devoted to the staff, faculty, students, and clients of the IPC, someone who consistently goes out of her way to make sure everyone is seen, heard, and welcome.

“Her passion for making and keeping the IPC running as a well-oiled machine where all can thrive does not go unnoticed,” read part of the nomination letter. “She spends countless hours supporting educational activities so that students can participate most effectively and efficiently. Angie goes above and beyond in many ways, but her impact on the community is especially admirable. Her interaction with clients demonstrates how much she truly cares about upholding the mission of the IPC.”

For her part, Cruz was surprised at such an honor from a place she loves working at.

“I knew the list of other nominees are really good colleagues, so I knew this was going to be a tough competition,” said Cruz, who called the award an affirmation.  “It's being valued. It helps to kind of push you forward. I just want to keep doing a good job. So, this was a little fuel for that.”

The day’s festivities included raffle winners of $50, $75, $100, and $200 prizes and a 12-team Cornhole Tournament on the 1CW lawn, which was won by Riley Davis, a summer intern with the Office of Strategic Communications, and Sean Hennessey, the IHP’s Chief Communications Officer. Both won $100 Amazon gift cards.

Chair massages were a popular draw, as was Giant Jenga and Giant Connect 4,  all keeping the 180 attendees busy – and smiling.

The day’s events and Employee Appreciation Week were meticulously planned and executed by the IHP Human Resources Team: Katikie Appleberry, Jen Burke, Natalie Lewis, Brian Reis, and Sarah Welch.             

“We really have tried to elevate it, “said Welch, Director of Human Resources. “And every year, we try to challenge ourselves to make it better, have more fun, be creative.”

Part of that creativity came with plastic ducks scattered all across the 1 CW area. The challenge was to figure out how many there were – and Senior User Support Specialist Jefferson Lam rose to that challenge. He guessed there were 72, just two off the actual number of 74. For his counting prowess, he won a $100 prize.

“The credit goes to Katikie,” said Welch. “She thought of that theme as a way to engage people to kind of make their way throughout the room and have a little friendly competition. People really loved it.”

They seemed to love the rest of Appreciation Week as well, which began Monday with a Summer Share padlet, where employees posted short snippets and picture of past adventures and future plans. Among the entries: trips to Lake Tahoe, Ireland, Malaysia, Iceland, Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Utah, and Canada. Skydiving, whale watching, a Taylor Swift concert, hiking, wine tasting, deep sea fishing and bookstore hunting were some of the activities. More than 70 posts were submitted.

Cathy Schmidt, an Assistant Professor Physical Therapy, won the Summer Adventure Share $100 Raffle Prize Winner after writing about not having to travel too far and having fun by the pool.

In the spirit of adventure, this year’s employee appreciation gift is a multi-purpose travel bag that can fit small electronics or toiletries; they will be mailed to home addresses early next month.

Tuesday saw a lively competition play out in Shouse 304 as approximately 50 staffers and faculty played IHP Family Feud. Six teams faced off while more than a dozen employees cheered them on. Team Zoomtastic, made up of Gayun Chan-Smutko, Andy Phillips, Joanna Kreisel, and Kim Erler, was the top virtual team while Team Clueless took home the in-person prize. Team members Kelley Hotti, Rachel Renaux, Hailey Laflin, Callie Watkins Liu. Sarah McKinnon, Rania Karim each won a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card, as did members of Team Zoomtastic.

“The Family Feud was so much fun,“ said Welch. “To see people competing both virtually and in person in teams - I haven't seen that level of energy in one room since before the pandemic, so that was wonderful.”

Also included in the week’s activities was the IHP 5K/10K Walk/Run/Ride Challenge. Here, community members could run/walk/bike either a 5K or 10K any time this week anywhere they wanted. Tracking apps marked the progress while selfies marked the fun. More than a dozen individuals and teams took part. Callie Watkins Liu, Director of JEDI Education and Programming, and Kim Erler, an Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy and inaugural director of the Tedy’s Team Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery, were the lucky raffles winners. They can choose a new pair of sneakers or REI gift of up to $150.

After employees had begun a long weekend and the cleanup from today’s fun and festivities was complete, Welch took stock of the week’s success.

“I think this week was awesome,” she said. “I'm just thankful that people participated and had fun. It's so important for us to take breaks and have a little bit fun at work. We work hard and we need to play hard, too.”

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