Press Release: 08.22.2018

Sharks in Arkansas?

Blow Up Shark Hanging from Crane Outside Mercy Northwest Arkansas Pediatric Ward

It began as something simple, a $12 purchase from a Menards home improvement center by McCarthy Superintendent Doug Womack. However, that $12 purchase continues to pay major dividends at McCarthy’s Mercy Northwest Arkansas hospital jobsite in Rogers, Ark.

At the end of each workday around 4:30 p.m., workers hang a large, inflatable and colorful shark from a crane on the north side of the building visible to the hospital’s pediatric ward. What started out as a small gesture has become a tradition, creating smiling faces, photo opportunities and much goodwill between McCarthy and Mercy Northwest Arkansas.

Blow Up Shark

“It’s just amazing some of the comments that we’ve had,” said Kerry Harper, Mercy’s Executive Director-Administration. “The way it’s positioned and with the huge expansion that’s being attached to our building … this just makes it a little bit more personal. I’ve even seen kids get excited but grownups, physicians and visitors, they’re all taking photographs, too. It’s a photo op that I would never think of, but it’s great. I think it’s awesome.”

The $140 million project began in 2017 includes a 275,000-square-foot new tower and 100,000 square feet of renovation work. The tower is scheduled for completion in August 2019 and the renovations are expected to reach completion in July 2020.

The shark idea came from Womack, who noticed children watching the crane and other construction work from their hospital windows each day.

Blow Up Shark Hanging From Crane Outside Mercy Northwest Arkansas Pediatric Ward

He got permission from Mercy and McCarthy to attach the large shark to the end of the crane hook and from that point on “all the kids were waiting every day for the shark to be hung on that hook. Everybody is always looking forward to seeing it. With all the kids looking in the windows, I just wanted to do something different.

“I did it for the kids because they were bored with nothing to look at.”

While the McCarthy team would try to display the shark on a daily basis, high winds in the area stopped crane use for 73 days in the first year of construction. As a result, anticipation sometimes builds as the workday reaches an end. Will the shark be there — or won’t he?

McCarthy Project Manager Jamie Dorland said the shark was an instant hit.

“We get quite a bit of people looking at it,” Dorland said. “We only did it one day at first to see how it would go, and the feedback we got from the hospital was how exciting it was for the kids to see that. It was kind of funny; we weren’t able to get it hung the second or third night because a storm came through.

“One of the vice presidents called me and said ‘Hey, where the shark?’ It was getting attention right away.”’

Here are reactions from local families about the shark:

“Recently my 3-year-old son had to spend the night in Mercy and I want to tell you, THE SHARK was so much fun for my son to see. Made him laugh and truly lifted his spirits!! If you are able, please pass this along to the crew and tell them thanks from a worried mom. BTW, my son is well now.”

“My daughter was in the hospital recently too for almost a week … (The shark) completely lifted her spirits. It was also fun seeing the shark stored under the crane when they were using it for construction.”

McCarthy’s long and productive relationship with Mercy continues to be enhanced with the simplest of gestures — an inflatable shark that provides a little extra joy in the lives of children enduring time in the hospital. It’s a simple, but effective way of showing McCarthy is doing more than constructing a building.

“It’s awesome to make a connection with the patient and the public,” Dorland said. “We’re very client-focused and we like to make those connections, too, but this is an opportunity for the patients to actually have a connection with McCarthy.”

As Kerry Harper, who has been with Mercy for nearly 30 years, summed it up, “Sometimes it’s the small things.”


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