Loved ones give back to therapist with big heart

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Feb 16th, 2013 @ 5:56pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes, those who serve everybody else need a reminder that they make a difference. One woman, after leaving her job as a recreational therapist at Shriners Hospital, got just that.

Laura Hollingshead had worked at Shriners for 12 years and after some changes within the hospital, she decided to leave her work as a part-time recreational therapist, her husband said.

"She would love nothing more than to propagate recreational therapy and be a champion of it," Johnny said. "Unfortunately, it's one of those things that if you don't have a big budget and the freedom to pay for some extraneous activities, it goes."

The Hollingsheads love the hospital and its mission. Laura still hopes to work with them on the semi-annual "Un-limb-ited" camp for children with prosthetics and missing extremities.

"It just worked out, we're not bitter about the change and leaving Shriners, but it's a sad chapter to close," Johnny said. "We're in a good place."

Johnny knew that a chapter as long as Laura's at Shriners deserved a marker of some kind. He pulled all the strings he could think of and called everyone he knew to throw a party in her honor.

"I want her to realize how great she is, and I think sometimes, people need to be reminded what they do and how they affect the world," Johnny said.

So as Laura left her exit interview earlier this week, dozens of people were outside to usher her into the next chapter.

Family, friends, co-workers, patients, church congregation members, even firefighters, cheered Laura as she came out of the hospital.

Guitarist Brandon Kitterman, of Provo's Fictionist, played Laura's favorites, including New Kids on the Block and Taylor Swift. The crew of Salt Lake City Fire Department's Engine 4 showed up for Laura and the kids. Johnny's coworkers from General Communications filled balloons, which the group released into the February sky.

"I want people to know how grateful I am that they showed up and that they took the time out of their day to volunteer and participate to show her that she made a difference there," Johnny said. "They have made a difference in our life, and Shriners has improved or enhanced our life here in Salt Lake."

Though she had other offers, Laura has decided to stay at home with her three children. Johnny said she has projects, like Un-limb-ited, that she hopes to continue for the kids who need some cheer.

"That's what she did for a living: she figured out ways for a kid who's literally in a body cast to laugh," Johnny said.

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