Legend creates food art to brighten pediatric patients stays

Nov 27, 2019

For 27 years, Ava Johnson has driven from Recluse, Wyoming to cook for patients at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette.

“You can count the number of times she was unable to make it to work on one hand,” says Legend Lisa Miller, CCH Director of Nutrition Services. “Ava is a joy to have as an employee; if there is a problem, she brings it to the forefront and brings solutions to the table to make positive changes.”

This dedication, and impeccable work ethic, has earned Ava a Legend Award. For those who don't know, CCH defined a Legend as: Those people who have left an indelible impression on our minds because of their deeds and actions. Ongoing demonstration of hard work, compassion, and a reputation for greatness make someone a legend.

A graduate of Campbell County High School, Ava spent some time studying nursing at Casper College. In December 1991, she took a job with CCH Nutrition Services at CCMH as a part-time and on-call employee in the kitchen. After some time, she decided to attend cooking school in Seattle, Wash, training that CCH provided to her. The rest is history!

According to her nomination form, completed by Lisa and other colleagues in Nutrition Services:

“Ava has been cooking at CCH for the last 27 years there is not a tray that is sent that is not perfect before she allows it to be sent to the patient. Her compassion and commitment to making sure ALL CCH patients have quality food for every meal shows from the entree to the garnish she prepares. Ava is considered a silent leader among co-workers, and is the go to if they need a mentor or a friendly ear.”

Lisa also said that Ava leads by example and sets the bar high for others reach.

“Her food by taste and sight speaks for itself,” she says. “There’s a saying in the kitchen: If Ava's not happy there is something we need to change.’”

Ava works behind the scenes to assure CCH is serving quality and appealing food to our hospital patients and customers. She motivates the staff with her friendly, positive demeanor.

In early 2016, Ava was re-inspired to do go the extra mile at work.

“There was a pediatric patient on the Medical/Surgical Unit, and I was asked if I could do something fun on the patient’s lunch plate to brighten her day,” says Ava. “I created a garnish made from a lemon to resemble a mouse. The patient’s family made sure to get me a thank you and let me know the child loved the garnish.”

Since then, Ava has created hundreds of special garnishes for our young patients. The garnishes are bright and cute, and are put onto pediatric patients’ trays to let them know how special they are to CCH, and to Ava.

Ava Johnson Food Art Legend at CCH

“I have been told countless times how the special treat has brightened the patient’s day and made their stay more enjoyable,” she says. “I truly enjoy making children happy.”

Colleagues will tell you that Ava's compassion for patients, staff and customers is phenomenal. Every day she comes to work with the mindset of taking care of our patients, staff and customers and never lets anything get in the way of that goal.

“Her longevity here at CCH puts her in a whole different class and her co-workers value her and her years of knowledge,” says Lisa. “The care that she has for pediatric patients with the garnishes she makes truly shows not only her creative and fun side, but also the fact of always willing to go above and beyond.”

When Ava isn’t at work, she enjoys bicycling, working in her yard and hunting with her husband. She also enjoys trips to Deadwood, enjoying nature and generally just spending time outside.

Ava has been married for 45 years, and the pair raised four children—who have given the grandparents 11 grandchildren.

“I have always enjoyed teaching my older grandkids how to drive a standard transmission. It’s been a long tradition dating back to teaching and driving with my children,” says Ava. “With my younger grandchildren I love to rock them, love on them, and hear the most adorable things they have to say!”

To her colleagues, Ava is known for her kindness. The love and joy she spreads with just her smile to everyone she meets is always welcome in the kitchen.

“There’s so many important jobs in a hospital. But, for patients, staff, and customers, food is also important,” says Ava. “It’s such an honor to be recognized for the work I do.”

It’s clear to her colleagues, that Ava takes pride in the work that she does. And now it’s clear to all of us at CCH.

Thank you, Ava, for going the extra mile for our patients. Your positive attitude and smile is a welcomed site at CCH. Congratulations on your Legend Award.