Thousands of care workers and their loved ones recently arrived at Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park in East Rutherford, NJ, for a night of family fun. The twist: they had the place all to themselves, with all expenses pre-paid.

The Jan. 10 “Family Fun Night” event was organized by CareRite Centers, a regional care provider, as a thank you for its staff and their family and friends.

Nearly 2,500 staff and guests showed up from 18 CareRite skilled nursing facilities — many more than were expected, according to Ashley Romano, chief experience officer at CareRite.

Visitors had their pick of roller coasters, arcades, rope courses, and more — all from the warmth and comfort of the indoor theme park. 

“Our staff across so many disciplines care for our patients in such a beautiful way,” said Romano. “It is our greatest honor to celebrate our dedicated staff who give selflessly each day.”

Staff were invited to bring family members and friends to the event. The event’s vision was to thank not only the frontline workers, but the support network that helps sustain them as well, Romano explained. 

“The idea was to be able to honor them and thank them for standing by their healthcare hero,” she told McKnight’s. “It really was a feel-good night.”

That celebration was certainly an investment for CareRite — which put more than $250,000 into renting out the theme park, providing complimentary rides, carnival snacks, catering and raffle prizes that included PlayStations and Oculus virtual reality headsets. Catering staff were even dressed up in tuxedos to greet the much more casually dressed guests of honor.

“[The investment] was significant, but when you think about what our mission is… the idea was to change the paradigm of healthcare,” Romano said. “These people are not just people, they’re heroes that give selflessly every single day. So we can spoil them and honor them and take care of them and we want them to know how much their sacrifices mean to everybody.”

Romano said CareRite aims to create a sense of appreciation from events like Family Fun Night that will trickle down to improved morale and patient care in the long run. She hopes other providers in the industry will be inspired to run similar events where possible in the future.