White Ribbon Meets Downtown Detroit Icon

May 04, 2020

DETROIT – The Spirit of Detroit, one of metro Detroit’s most recognizable, photographed and treasured icons, is now wearing a white ribbon as a gargantuan symbol of gratitude for all healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers who have kept the community functioning during the COVID-19 crisis.

A crew of two from PropArt Studio installed all 420 square feet of polyester poplin that measures 12 by 15 feet on Monday. Attached is a three-foot-long white ribbon. Banner Sign Company, printed the shirt. The two Detroit businesses are behind shirts previously worn by the statue, including for the Super Bowl, Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings. The Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority partnered on the project.

Having the 26-foot-tall bronze monument display the ribbon on a t-shirt the color of blue-green scrubs is a proud and capstone moment for the Henry Ford Health System campaign that adopted the white ribbon as a way to express thanks to all healthcare workers and first responders everywhere, no matter where they work or live. As time went on the ribbon became a symbol of thanks to all essential employees and the campaign spread across the country.

“Without these essential employees, this crisis would have been gravely compounded,” said Wright Lassiter, III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System. “The front-line health care workers, the first responders, the bus drivers, those who work for the post office, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, the manufacturers who shifted to producing personal protective equipment and more were absolutely critical to protecting public health, safety and quality of life.”

The White Ribbon Campaign began several weeks ago as the grass-roots dream of Dennis Lemanski, D.O., who retired last month as Senior Vice President of Medical Education and Medical Staff Affairs for Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital. He hoped a display of white ribbons would remind tired, unusually stressed front line workers managing near overwhelming numbers of patients that they weren’t forgotten.

Within hours, it became an official campaign at Henry Ford. Within days white ribbons were wrapped around trees, tied on porches, worn on lapels and on display in business storefronts and windows of residents across metro Detroit. Within weeks white ribbons were on display across the state and the country, and the campaign had grown to recognize and thank all essential employees.

“I am so proud and grateful that the white ribbon idea has taken off. I hope it’s meant something to these very important people willing to go out every day to do jobs that keep communities safe, fed, functioning,” Dr. Lemanski said.

“To know that the hundreds or thousands of people who pass the Spirit of Detroit each day or who may get a chance to see photos of the statue wearing the ribbon touches me deeply. More important than that though is that it’s given our front-line workers a boost as they head to or from the hospital, doing work that’s never been more stressful or tiring.”

The Spirit of Detroit was built in 1958 and stands in front of seals for the City of Detroit and Wayne County.

Sharon Madison, board chairperson of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority that is responsible for the monument, said she hopes the display conveys the gratitude of so many locals and is also a reminder of the struggles that existed before COVID-19 and need to be addressed going forward.

“The unprecedented pandemic crisis has hit Detroit and Wayne County with unimaginable pain, loss, and uncertainty. The virus shines a light on the inescapable truths about inequities and disparities for far too many,” she said. “Our health care professionals, emergency teams, janitorial, security, transportation, grocers, and others work tirelessly to support fellow citizens. Their selfless care is the embodiment of the true spirit of Detroiters. The white ribbon on our beloved Spirit of Detroit exemplifies our appreciation to all first responders and essential workers for all they do.”

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MEDIA CONTACT: Kim North Shine / 313-549-4995 / knorth1@hfhs.org