Collages filled with memories were on display, people in the front lobby signed guest books and readied to take guided tours, and workers and volunteers filled the auxiliary meeting room to reminisce and celebrate a milestone.
What was once a small hospital seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Cape Coral Hospital has become unrecognizable from the original as it celebrated 35 years on Sunday with an open house, which featured tours of the hospital, including the emergency department and an operating room, and free health screenings.
It also featured memories of a facility that has grown by leaps and bounds since it opened in 1977 on a two-lane Del Prado Boulevard.
Joanne Dallas, past president of the hospital auxiliary, looks at the Auxiliary display at the 35th anniversary celebration of Cape Coral Hospital.
"We get to celebrate all the wonderful things that have happened in the past 35 years and get a glimpse of what's to come," said Chief Administrative Officer Scott Kashman. "This hospital is here for the community, created by the community and has served as the heart of the community."
People crammed into the festive meeting room to have some snacks and learn about the hospital's history through the dozens of collages made by the individual departments.
Joanne Dallas, a former auxiliary president, admired its collage.
"Lots of old friends here," Dallas remarked. "It's changed somewhat, but as long as we have leaders, we'll be fine."
The event featured remarks from Kashman, as well as other staff and dignitaries, some of whom have worked at the hospital from day one. Like David Bateman, who started out stocking the hospital's supplies and equipment and became the hospital's lead technician.
"In the early days I got to work in different departments, in the OR and set up traction. We got a lot of learning experience," Bateman said. "Computer technology has changed a lot of what we do here."
Another is Donna Giannuzzi, Lee Memorial Health System Chief Patient Care Officer, who started as a nurse when the hospital opened.
"Our first patient was a man with a catfish barb in his foot. He had to go to surgery because we couldn't get it," Giannuzzi said.
And another is Paul Sanborn, former member of the board of trustees, who remembered the day they broke ground and held the ribbon-cutting.
"We broke ground with gold bedpans. Sen. Connie Mack III was shoveling the dirt with one," Sanborn said. "For the ribbon-cutting we used rolls of gauze and surgical scissors to cut the ribbon."
But it was the words of Dr. Thomas Carrasquillo, associate medical director, who gave the most profound words.
"Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Pine island, you gave us a mandate to take care of you - not a request, a mandate - and we have," Carrasquillo said.
Also making comments were Lee Memorial Health System President Jim Nathan; Gillian Paterson, a 36-year volunteer; Mayor John Sullivan; and City Councilman Kevin McGrail.
Many of the visitors then took guided tours of the hospital and a video "Family of Friends" played for those who stayed in the meeting room.
But what seemed most exciting to many wasn't the last 35 years, but the 35 years yet to come.
"We have the capacity to continue to grow. That's the exciting part of people continuing to come to our town," said Wendy Piascik, vice president of Patient Care Services. "We can continually evolve here and grow along with Lee Memorial Health System."
Cape Coral Hospital is at 636 Del Prado Blvd, S.
For information, call 424-2000 or go to leememorial.org.