BOSTON (CBS) – A group of New England healthcare heroes enjoyed a Super Bowl Sunday that they’ll never forget.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft flew 76 frontline workers to Tampa on the Patriots plane, and treated them to a Miley Cyrus concert and the big game.READ MORE: CVS Lists Teachers As Eligible For COVID Vaccine Appointments In Massachusetts
It was a much needed and deserved break for the dedicated men and women who have seen the worst of the COVID-19 crisis this past year.
The day began with a group picture on the field at Gillette Stadium – socially distanced, of course. Then it was a bus ride to Logan Airport – complete with a police escort – and a first class flight on the Patriots team plane to see Super Bowl LV.
The many Patriots fans were quick to make sure they got some selfies on the team plane.
As excited as they were about the trip, the group was also clearly touched by the recognition of their service.
“To be recognized for what we’re doing – it makes you realize that we have done something pretty extraordinary,” said Tara Fagan, a nurse practitioner at the Connecticut Community Health Center.
That extraordinary selflessness during this pandemic is exactly why the Kraft family and the Patriots created this special day to honor these men and women; to show appreciation for what they have done for so many others.
“These are the real superheroes,” Kraft told WBZ just after the plane touched down in Tampa. “These people have been on the front lines, taking care of people and not knowing what could happen to them.”
Cathy Bean works at Northern Light Home Care and Hospice in Maine. “The days are dark and long,” Bean said. “You can’t ever explain to people what it’s really like unless they’re there with you.”
“It’s been excruciating, no doubt,” added Katherine Heath, a critical care nurse at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass. “It’s taken a lot of toll on me, my family, my friends, my co-workers.”READ MORE: Wednesday's Child: Siblings Jessica & Orlando
It was just one day, but a welcome opportunity to put the weight of their work aside, and come together to make new friends, soak up the Florida sun, and cheer on their still-favorite quarterback.
Judging by all the number 12 Patriots jerseys, it was clear who most of the group was rooting for.
Boston Medical Center ICU Nurse Stephen Olowu said he was mad at first that Tom Brady didn’t stay with the Pats, but he’s over it. “I went through that grieving, but it’s time to celebrate that man,” he said. “I’m rooting for Tom Brady!”
When the plane touched down in Tampa, Kraft was waiting on the tarmac to greet each one of the healthcare workers.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t bring more,” Kraft said. “We say thank you to you for putting your life on the line.”
Kraft posed for pictures with the groups from each hospital, smiled for a few selfies and signed caps and t-shirts.
The trip was also an opportunity for both Kraft and the healthcare professionals to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated.
“The past ten months have been wild,” said Dr. Josh Baugh, who works in the Mass General Emergency Department. “Please get vaccinated. It will help us to do things like this and get back to normal when you get the shot.”
All of the healthcare workers who went to Tampa have been vaccinated; you couldn’t make the trip if you didn’t get the shot.
And while they’ve all gotten the vaccine, they still took all the precautions we’ve been using for months – wearing masks and social distancing on the buses and the plane. And only about 22,000 fans were allowed in the stadium to see the Buccaneers beat the Chiefs.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
The Pats fans in the group were excited for Brady’s seventh title as they headed back to the airport for the return trip.