A Symbol of Hope

Sep 27, 2023


In March 2023, the Adventist Health and Rideout Emergency Department welcomed the daughter of Ashley Johnson, a registered nurse at Adventist Health and Rideout, who was seeking help for her struggles with depression and mental health. As she waited for transportation to a psychiatric care facility, she noticed an anxious patient nearby. With permission from her mother, the daughter approached the teenager and kindly gifted them a french-fry themed fidget toy from her own collection.

“She was so ecstatic to be able to help her,” Johnson said. “That was the first genuinely happy smile I had seen from her in a long time. She put her feelings aside to help one person that was struggling. I am blown away that she can do that.”

Her daughter’s act of kindness inspired Johnson to start a fundraiser to provide a supply of fidgets - toys designed to help relieve stress and anxiety – for the hospital to distribute to behavioral health patients, pediatric patients and more. The Rideout Health Foundation heard about both Johnson’s efforts and her daughter’s story and decided to support her initiative by funding 500 fidgets for the hospital’s Emergency Department.

Struggles with Mental Health

As an Adventist Health and Rideout associate for nearly six years, and someone who has struggled with her own mental health in the past, Johnson said she knows how difficult a hand her daughter has been dealt.

“She is a very kind, gentle soul,” Johnson said. “She’s very aware and puts people’s problems before her own. It hurts that I have to see her struggle so much.”

Johnson describes her daughter as a compassionate individual and a talented artist. She said it is heartbreaking to see such an innocent person face such hardship, at such a young age. At times, she said, her daughter’s struggles have intensified, with Johnson fearing that things could have taken a turn for the worse.

“If I waited (too) long,” Johnson said, “I felt like I was going to lose my daughter.”

A Symbol of Hope

In times of fear and uncertainty, something as simple as fidgets proved to be an unsuspecting tool for comfort. It helps to have something to distract you while you are waiting for answers, Johnson said, especially in a place that can be particularly scary for adolescents such as the emergency department.

Before long, those fidgets took on a far more significant meaning. The simple gesture of offering a fidget to a fellow patient battling similar struggles became a symbol of hope.

For that patient, for Johnson’s daughter, and – the pair hope - for future patients that may be facing mental health challenges, the fidgets are a small, but powerful reminder that things can get better.

“I told her that we are going to be able to do exactly what she did, all the time. And she was really excited about that,” Johnson said. “She got to make a difference, and she’s proof that no matter what kind of struggles people are going through, it can get better.”