Pawtucket nurse recounts Super Bowl trip on Patriots’ plane

Pawtucket nurse recounts Super Bowl trip on Patriots’ plane

Betty Francisco, director of nursing at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Pawtucket, attended Super Bowl LV in Tampa last Sunday with 75 other health care workers from around New England.

PAWTUCKET – Betty Francisco, director of nursing at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence on Main Street, never thought she’d have the chance to go to a Super Bowl.

The Rumford resident said it was a “dream of a lifetime” to attend, so when she learned she was one of 76 health care workers who would travel to Super Bowl LV aboard the Patriots’ plane, she thought at first it was a joke.

“I would’ve never thought that I could ever do it. It’s so expensive. It would be the dream of a lifetime to ever go,” she told The Breeze.

The nursing home learned in late January it was one of four facilities in Rhode Island chosen to send a representative to the trip sponsored by the Kraft family and the New England Patriots. Health care “superheroes” received an all-expense-paid trip to Tampa, Fla., to attend the Super Bowl with transportation on the team plane. All participants had to be fully vaccinated with both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Francisco said the facility held a drawing to determine which staff member would attend, but she never expected to win.

“I’m a person who never wins anything, first of all, and then to win something so honorable, it was just an incredible feeling,” she said.

Last Sunday morning, she reported to Gillette Stadium at 7 a.m., where health care workers from all six New England states gathered for a group photo on the Patriots’ field. From there, they had a police escort to Logan Airport and boarded the plane bound for Tampa.

Francisco said the atmosphere was light and friendly on the plane as health care workers had the chance to meet and share stories from the past year.

“It was relaxed, we had fun, and we had the opportunity to meet some incredible superheroes, other people who have been going through the same challenges that we could really relate to,” she said.

In Tampa, they had a chance to personally meet Robert Kraft and were guests at a tailgate Miley Cyrus concert. Then they headed over to the game for the start of the Super Bowl.

“It’s still like a dream, honest to God. Just talking about it is beyond words,” she said.

Even though the Patriots didn’t play in this year’s Super Bowl, Francisco said it was OK because she got to see her favorite player, Tom Brady, claim his seventh Super Bowl win.

One of her favorite moments, she said, was during the halftime show, when the entire stadium was lit up with sparkling lights. Francisco said she did a lot of reflecting on the way home that night about what the trip meant to her.

“To me, it meant that I was so honored and all the hard work we’ve been doing, this was like the icing on the cake,” she said. “Being honored this way and remembered by the Kraft family, we were just validated and it was great to have that done.”

The biggest takeaway, she said, was the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Francisco said she lived a dream she would have never been able to experience if she hadn’t received her vaccine. Being in the stadium, she said, reminded her that more people will have to get the vaccine if they’ll be able to go back to attending concerts and football games.

“What does it mean getting vaccinated? It means there’s hope at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

Francisco said she’s proud of her staff and the residents at the Jeanne Jugan Residence, most of who have already received their two doses. She encouraged anyone on the fence about the vaccine to talk with their doctors.

“If anybody has any doubts, please talk to their physicians, talk to somebody in health care and get educated,” she said.

She gets ready to board the Patriots’ plane.