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Royal Jubilee Hospital (partnershipsbc.com)

Every night at 7 p.m., residents of Oak Bay have been stepping outside onto their porches and balconies to cheer for all the front line health care workers and others working to keep us safe during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Oak Bay council member Michelle Kirby is a major part of this nightly event, regularly cheering out loud, and even grabbing a trombone to play ‘Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In’.

“I just heard and saw it being done in Vancouver and Montreal,” said Kirby. 

When she first started cheering on her local heroes, Kirby said she had just wanted to replicate what was going on in other parts of the country and across the world.

Kirby talked about being inspired by Montreal residents singing Leonard Cohen every night at 7 p.m., and people in Italy singing to each other.

The reason why 7 p.m. is the time people have picked to start cheering is because that is when shift changes happen at most hospitals. 

“That’s why we started it here because I live a couple of blocks from the Royal Jubilee Hospital and I thought, well maybe they’ll be able to hear us if we play and sing and make enough noise,” said Kirby.

She also thinks it’s a great way to connect with neighbours during a time when it is ill-advised to connect and interact with each other in person.

A movement to express gratitude

To Kirby, this movement just about the health care workers – this is about anyone who is out there on the front lines working to look after people.

“I have a grocery store worker that lives next door, and a woman who looks after the elderly and does home care next door, so they’re out working and looking after people and I just wanted them to be able to hear that and feel appreciated for all they’re doing,” she said.

So on March 23rd, Kirby pulled out her trombone for the first time after 25 years to play her rendition of ‘Oh, When The Saints Go Marching In’.

She says this was to encourage others to cheer and make everyone feel less alone, choosing that particular song as she found it appropriate for the saints marching in and out of hospitals every day.

“I’m just so grateful; it’s quite a sacrifice… I don’t have to go out and take that risk, and there are a lot of people who are, and it’s just so admirable,” Kirby said.

Her advice to others mirrors that of public health officials across Canada and the world: stay home, wash your hands, and support one another from a distance. 

Kirby hopes that the movement to cheer at 7 p.m. will grow and catch on across Greater Victoria – and her hopes have been echoed by Victoria mayor Lisa Helps. 

During one of her daily briefings, Helps challenged everyone watching her live feed on March 24th to open their windows at 7 p.m. and cheer on front line workers in their communities as well.

“Here’s my challenge to the 3,000 or more people who are watching this feed: at seven o’clock today and every day let’s open our windows and do a loud round of applause and ‘woo woo!’ for all of the people who are working so hard out there,” said Helps.

Have you joined in yet?