Candlewood Valley Health and Rehabilitation in New Milford has announced the winners of its Covid-19 Certified Nursing Assistant Championship Contest.

Winners won dinner for four from program sponsor Italia Mia Restaurant in New Milford, in addition to beach bags filled with goodies, Dunkin’ Donuts certificates and more.

The contest was offered up to the staff at CVHR, as well to the community at large.

“CVHR developed the program to recognize all of the CNAs who have been showing up day after day, putting themselves and their families at risk, to take care of others,” said David Segal, CVHR administrator. “To acknowledge the enormous strain of working under the conditions created by the coronavirus in order to keep our communities safe.”

The healthcare professionals who received the final championship gift of a dinner for four, a bottle of champagne and a beach bag of goodies, for “excellence in care” are CNA, Jenny Penaranda of CHVR, healthcare companion Sarah Goane of VNA Home of New Milford and CNA Olivia Alessandro of Yale New Haven Hospital.

Those nominated with distinction for the CNA Championship Contest by their fellow employees and/or supervisors include Heather Hayden, Shiya McCrea, Caitlin Bailey, Breana Welsh, Angel Walker, Nikki Whitlock, Daniel Lima, Angela Roveto, Sejla Ceric, Jeremy Llivicura, Sly Chavarria, Chrissy Clark, Tabitha Williams, Jordan Satagaj, Rosie Ivery, Krystyne Calubaquib, Malaysia McCrea, Savannah Yeomans, Ginny Hart and Pam Gasper.

CNAs who won beach bags filled with goodies for “going above and beyond the call of duty” from Danbury Hospital, Yale New Haven Hospital and CVHR include Cathy Koproski, Leila Gomes, Yvettes Hayles and Jaclyn Nold, Janette Somers and Brian Holden.

Nearly 100 nominations were received from Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital and Yale New Haven Hospital, as well as well as from doctors’ offices and nursing organizations throughout Litchfield, Fairfield and New Haven counties.

The contest was promoted via local newspaper, social media and direct mail to healthcare organizations.

“The nominees that came in from our community healthcare organizations, including local hospitals, doctor offices and nursing associations were eye-opening to review,” said Sarah Christopher, assistant director of nursing at CVHR.

“To learn of the massive dedication and teamwork that is occurring all around us in the healthcare field was uplifting to say the least, especially during such a time of crisis,” she said. “The fact that supervisors took the time to draft these nominations is an enormous reflection of how much they respect and appreciate their support staffs. Patients should read these nominations.”

CVHR Charge Nurse Lori Graves said the CNAs she nominated “have been true heroes, champions and the lifeline between the residents and the nurses throughout this COVID-19 period.”

“They have been amazing, supportive, fearless and strong,” Graves said.

Nichole Brant, program director at VNA Home, said one of the reasons Sarah Goane was “nominated was because she was the first inline to join our COVID Ready Team, which was made up of caregivers who would care for COVID-positive patients.”

“What’s more, her uncle was diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID and is still on a ventilator until this day due to the virus,” Brant related. “Yet that has never negatively impacted Sarah’s exceptional performance. She always has a smile on her face and shows up for work with a positive demeanor.”

Cindy LaCour, CVHR social service director, emphasized the “hard work, compassion and empathy” it takes to be a CNA.

“There is not one day that goes by that I wonder how the CNAs do all the work that is assigned to them,” LaCour said. “ At times it is a thankless job, as well as emotional and downright frustrating.”

“One wants to do the best but there are not enough hours in the day,” she said. “It is so heartwarming to see and be able to sit with patient and just hold their hand or listen to a story for the tenth time.”

Keira and Kaleigh Frame nominated fellow student Olivia Alessandro, who is a CNA at Yale-New Haven Hospital because “during this time of global uncertainty Olivia continues to remain certain and driven in her studies and in her work as a CNA.”

“Her lifetime goal has been to help patients and she has completed over four hundred and seventy-five hours of training and over sixty hours of clinical experience to become a CNA,” the Frames said.

“She was one of two students selected by her superior to work as an intern during this pandemic at Yale,” they said. “We are all amazed at her discipline, dedication and fearlessness in working as tirelessly as she does.”

Quinn Fusco, CVHR director of nursing, praised CVHR’s contest champion Jenny Penaranda.

Without CNAs like Penardana, “we wouldn’t be able to make it through this health crisis.”

“Jenny embodies what we need and want in a CAN,” Fusco said. “She is an exceptional employee. Our residents and our staff all agree that she’s the one most deserving of this award at our facility.”

For more information regarding Outreach Programs, contact CVHR’s Community Outreach Director, Melissa Marici, 860-355-0971 ext. 11. For more information or to schedule a facility tour, please contact CVHR’s Admissions Coordinator, Georgia Epting, 860-355-0971 ext. 24