Spring 2021 marks a huge milestone for Madonna’s Lincoln Campus $57 million construction and renovation project: The placement of the final uppermost steel beam of the patient tower. On Friday, March 12, 2021, the hospital hosted a topping off ceremony. While the practice dates back hundreds of years, today’s event was made even more special by a former patient’s pivotal role in this time-honored tradition.
Madonna leaders, board chairs and donors gathered just outside the construction area for the socially distant event, signing their names to the beam to represent their special role in helping the project become a reality. Father John Sullivan, the vice president of the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital Board of Directors, shared a blessing, offering prayers for continued safety throughout the completion of the project.
The tradition dates back to ancient Scandinavia as early as 700 A.D., when Viking chieftains would hoist an evergreen tree atop a newly finished building to celebrate its completion.
“In the steel construction trade, the evergreen tree signifies that the project has reached into the sky without injury,” Madonna President and CEO, Paul Dongilli Jr., Ph.D., said. “The tree also symbolizes new or continued growth for the building’s future occupants.”
Dongilli said today’s event was made even more significant due to the connection the Moen Steel Erection crane operator responsible for placing the beam has to Madonna. In 2017, Ryan Eastin spent eight months in Lincoln’s outpatient therapy after suffering significant brain trauma.
“I had the whole gambit of things, memory issues, muscle problems—relearning how to use my eye muscles and my neck muscles,” Ryan, brain injury survivor, said. “I just one day lost everything after my injury and things that had come so easy to me were now just difficult and it was so frustrating. I had to relearn all of that at Madonna.”
Ryan says over time, through hard work and the help of his care team, he relearned invaluable life skills that have helped him excel in life and at his job. He currently operates the tallest crane in Lincoln at 220 feet and 275 tons. He completes about 60 lifts per day and has been on the Madonna job site since November. Ryan recently reconnected with this care team to thank them for their help in rebuilding his life. He says the opportunity to place the final beam on the new addition means the world to him.
“I am so thankful for Madonna and their help and that I am able to do what I am doing now,” Ryan said. “To place the final beam on the new addition to serve even more people in the future just means everything in the world.”
“Ryan truly embodies our mission at Madonna: to rehabilitate those who have sustained injuries or disabling conditions so that they can fully participate in life,” Dongilli said.
Dongilli thanked Lincoln-based companies assisting with the expansion including Sampson Construction, Davis Design and Olsson. The overall project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2023.