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Four University of Michigan undergraduate students have started the “Thank Blue” initiative to thank health care workers at Michigan Medicine for their work in keeping the community safe through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering junior Eric Lian, LSA sophomore Omar Hassan, LSA senior Brendan Dolan and Information sophomore Grant Ho created the project as part of their Psychology 223: Entrepreneurial Creativity class. The project prompt for this class also led to the inception of the Michigan Marriage Pact in October 2019 as well as other initiatives successful on campus and beyond.

Psych 223 professor Eric Fretz told The Michigan Daily in March that his course combined practical knowledge with engaged teaching, challenging students to “do epic shit.” 

The team’s goal is to collect 1,000 messages of gratitude from community members — students, alumni, parents and faculty — via an online form on their website by April 15. The group will then construct an 8-foot tall and 15-foot wide colorful art installation at Michigan Medicine spelling out “THANK YOU.” The letters will be made of plastic balls, each with a written message on it.

Dolan said he hopes the project will serve as a big display of gratitude for health care workers. 

“I remember thinking ‘Man, it’s kind of tough because of the pandemic,’ since a lot of things we would be able to do in terms of a business or an idea are just hard to do now,” Dolan said. “So I was struggling at first, but then I decided to flip that and think about how I could maybe use the pandemic to leverage an idea for the project as opposed to having it hamper us.”

Lian and Ho worked on the website creation, while Hassan and Dolan worked on connecting with organizations and the construction of the display, respectively.

Hassan said reading the messages from community members made him realize how people have been directly affected by the work of health care workers.

“People like us, students, can show appreciation or give back in some small way, even though it won’t be compensating anybody for anything fully, but it’s just something that we can do,” Hassan said. “Going forward, it shows us what we can do for our health care heroes who have done a lot for us.”

The Thank Blue form has received 515 responses as of Monday evening, according to the website. The art piece will be unveiled on April 15.

Deanna Norris, communications specialist at Michigan Medicine, said the hospital is looking for a location where the display will be highly visible to employees.

“We are grateful to the Thank Blue students for their efforts to remind Michigan Medicine employees of the widespread gratitude that exists for their continued dedication and hard work,” Norris said.

Business senior Jackson Berger responded to the form and said he participated because he wanted to express his gratitude for the work health care workers have done.

“My mom works in a hospital, so I saw how tough this past year has been for health care workers,” Berger said. “So I thought it (filling out the form) would be a small act of kindness and a really cool gesture, because they have given up so much for us.”

Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at varshakv@umich.edu.