SCOTT SLOYER is not a healthcare professional. But, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, that did not keep him, a Hutchinson, Kan. native and Williams Education Fund member, and his son TYLER from springing into action when he got a call saying that help was needed in New York City, one of the epicenters of the virus.
With Scott serving as the director of sales for ETix, an event and sports ticketing company and Tyler as the manager of The Wheel, a popular KU student hangout, they both had some time on their hands as the sports industry was put on pause and students left campus to finish the spring semester online, both due to the coronavirus.
“A friend of mine called me on a Thursday at about 9 o’clock at night and said that the company staffing nurses in New York was so busy recruiting and staffing 4,000 nurses that they need about 10 worker bees, just 10 bodies that when they get here, they are going to do whatever they are told to do,” Sloyer said. “He told me that night that I need to leave (Kansas City) at 11 o’clock the next morning. So, I look at Tyler and said ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Let’s go.’”
The Sloyers did not know exactly what they were getting themselves into, but knew they wanted to do their part to help in the effort to fight the virus.
“We flew out the next morning, not having a clue,” Sloyer said. “They told us ’56 days. There are no days off. You will work 12-hour days and we were in for it.”
The father-son duo was sent to the Park Central Hotel, where 800 nurses were staying to help staff 17 nearby hospitals. Tyler was tasked with helping the logistical and scheduling procedures for the nurses and Scott was, among other tasks, in charge of setting up a help desk to answer as many questions as he could. His help desk would soon evolve into something much bigger.
“On the first day, one of the nurses asked if there was a microwave, and due to lack of hotel staffing, there was not,” Sloyer said. “So, I set up a table and bought a coffee pot and a microwave with my own money.”
With only one coffee pot and 800 nurses, the coffee was gone in a matter of moments. A nurse saw what was happening and took it upon herself to help.
“She (told me) ‘I will be right back,’” Sloyer said. “So, she had gone up to her room and did something on Facebook and 30 minutes later had raised $3,300.”
With these donations, “Scott’s Cantina” was born. They now have five tables filled with water and snacks, six coffee pots and 30 microwaves.
“Scott’s Cantina” became a relatively self-sustaining project after nurses saw the new set-up. They began giving the snacks that were donated to them directly to Sloyer’s new operation for their fellow nurses to enjoy.
It was then that Sloyer realized that many people are willing and able to do their part in helping stop the spread of COVID-19. He took action and began contacting national food brands to see if they could contribute.
“I reached out to Nestle because I used to live in St. Louis (where the Nestle-owned pet brand Purina is headquartered) and they gave me 500 cases of water,” Sloyer said. “I wanted to do something special (for the nurses) for Easter, so I reached out to the CEO of Jelly Belly and he sent me 5,000 bags of Jelly beans.”
While the nurses he serves want to give Sloyer credit for putting on this operation, he shifts that praise right back onto them.
“(The nurses) are the ones doing this,” Sloyer said. “I just put down the seed, and a forest grew.”
As if running “Scott’s Cantina” and the help desk weren’t enough, Sloyer also spends his work days that begin at 4:30 a.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. running the de facto mail room for the inhabitants of the Park Central Hotel where he handles and sorts up to 1,100 pieces of mail per day.
In the meantime, Sloyer is just happy to provide some face-to-face contact for these hard-working individuals who are put in dangerous situations every time they go into work.
“(My area) has become the soft place for them to land,” Sloyer said. “When they come home from work, they just unload on me. They tell me what happened that night. I have been fortunate enough to become (a safe) place for them and I am there to listen.”
This experience has helped Sloyer realize that you do not have to be a healthcare professional to help fight COVID-19.
“There are so many things that people can do and so many people to support,” Sloyer said. “(The nurses) need to do their job and not have to worry about where to find a phone charger or some stamps. Those are things that people like me can do.”
Sloyer solicited a group of Lawrence mothers with an opportunity to get their children involved to help brighten the days of the nurses in New York City.
“I just asked ‘Why don’t you guys write letters and draw pictures with Crayons for the nurses?’” Sloyer said. “So, they did it, and we papered all the elevators in the Park Central Hotel with all these notes and pictures.”
Even though this volunteer opportunity has taken a toll on Sloyer, it is not lost on him that he truly is making a difference.
“It has been physically and emotionally draining for me. I go to my room at 9 o’clock every night and it is my turn to break down and catch my breath,” Sloyer said. “But these nurses go out of their way to make me feel good by making me an “honorary nurse” and saying ‘we wouldn’t be able to be here without you.’”
The word hero is frequently thrown around during these times, and Sloyer quickly identified who his are.
“My son, Tyler. There are a lot of 26-year-olds who are just golfing and playing video games, so with him to be here working long, hard hours too, makes me really proud of him,” Sloyer said. “And all these nurses. They really, really do care. They do not just work their shift, but are truly invested in their patients and in their fellow nurses.”
Sloyer admits that he sometimes doesn’t believe he can work 20 more days in these current conditions to fulfill his 56-day contract. But what he can do is do one more day, 20 more times. We thank Scott and Tyler Sloyer for everything they have done and continue to do to fight the spread of COVID-19, day by day, one day at a time.