This is Us

Hartford HealthCare might be where we work, but when we asked you where you find fun, relaxation or deeper meaning in your lives, we were astonished at the variety of hobbies and activities you pursue in your spare time. Here are a few of those stories, and we’ll have more in upcoming issues of Moments. To share your hobby, email

Email Susan McDonald

Eric Smullen has always enjoyed the freedom and peace of water sports.

Sailor Seas-es the Day

Eric Smullen - Senior Vice President, Hartford HealthCare Community Network

Eric Smullen has worked at Hartford HealthCare since 2005. He started as a physical therapist and was recently promoted to senior vice president of the Hartford HealthCare Community Network. When he is not working, he can be found on the water — sailing, and kitesurfing.

When did you start these hobbies?

I have been sailing for almost my entire life. My parents would take me when I was an infant. About nine years ago, I purchased a daysailer and have been going ever since. My earliest memory of boating was when I was really young, my parents would put my brother and me on the foredeck (the front-most deck of the boat) and they would tie our life jackets to the mast. I started kitesurfing about seven years ago. While I was on vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands, I was on the beach and saw about 15 kitesurfers and I watched them for hours, amazed. An older couple came and popped up a kite and launched it and off they went kitesurfing. I was thinking to myself, if they could do it, I could, too. The first time I did it was in Turks and Caicos. I did really well at first, I picked up on things that I already knew how to do, like flying a kite. However, I struggled for about three years until I decided I had to go all in and took lessons in North Carolina.

Eric Smullen Hartford HealthCare

What do you enjoy most about sailing and kitesurfing?

When it comes to both, you have to pay attention and be actively involved in working with the wind and the boat or board. Sailing is something I can do myself and it’s peaceful, relaxing, and alone time.

What advice would you give others who are interested in trying these sports?

My advice is to take a lesson, prioritize safety and commit to it. When you’re learning, you also have to respect Mother Nature and the wind gusts.

Do you have any favorite memories?

My favorite memory of sailing is when I chartered a boat with my family and parents and took a trip sailing across Chesapeake Bay. When it comes to kitesurfing, there is nothing better than kiting a sunset session.

Are there any skills that you learned from sailing that you apply to your everyday life?

You have to be always aware of your surroundings and constantly adjust.

—Bonnie Tormay

Anthony Cernera loves the feeling of floating on air while skydiving.

He Asked, “How Could I Not Do It?”

Anthony Cernera - Director of Philanthropy, St. Vincent’s Medical Center

Anthony Cernera has dedicated his professional life to helping others as director of philanthropy for St. Vincent’s Medical Center. In 2015, when he saw a friend’s Facebook post about donating a kidney, he saw an opportunity to do so in his personal life as well. But, being a three-time living organ donor is only one part of his story. He is also a semi-professional skydiver, practicing Buddhist, and hospice volunteer.

What made you want to be an organ donor?

My good friend Wendy posted about giving a kidney to her best friend’s son. She had this comment about how if this was only going to mildly inconvenience her and save somebody’s life, then how could she not do it? I saw that and I thought how could you live with one kidney and not be in a constant state of medical crisis? I did a little research and, sure enough, it turns out you can live with one kidney. I am a practicing Buddhist and every morning I meditate and set my intentions to try to be a good person and do good for the world. Knowing I did not need a kidney and it could save someone’s life, how could I not do it?

You are a semi-professional skydiver. Can you talk more about that?

I do video for a competitive skydiving team. I have been doing this for three years and skydiving for eight. I work for teams that compete in the United States Parachute Association National Championships. These teams get together, train for months, and then compete. The camera guy is a vital part of the team because they can’t be judged for making their formations without the video proof. It’s a pretty fun weekend job.

How did you get into skydiving?

I have always wanted to fly ever since I was a little kid. I was in my 30s and newly single when I moved to Long Island. Not knowing anyone in the area, I decided to sign up for Groupon experiences and do fun things with new people. The first that came through was for skydiving. I was instantaneously hooked. I was licensed a few months later and I stopped counting after I got to a thousand jumps a few years ago. I can’t imagine not skydiving because it’s an amazing community of rad people.

What else are you involved in outside of work?

I have been a hospice volunteer for about a decade and, most recently, have been doing that with Hartford HealthCare at Home, which is made up of a team of real-life saints. I am about to defend a dissertation for my doctorate in developmental psychology. I am a meditation instructor. I got into Buddhism about 20 years ago and it has been a very meaningful part of my life. I have a wonderful partner who is involved in state politics, so we do a lot of volunteering, campaigning, and advocacy for her policy work. I also play chess almost every day.

—Robin Stanley

Kim Harrison tends to the various plants and flowers in her garden.

Like the Legislature, Her Garden is Different Every Year

Kim Harrison - HHC vice president, government affairs

When Kim Harrison bought her house in Manchester seven years ago, the landscape consisted of grass and overgrown rhododendrons. When she’s not sitting in on state legislative sessions representing Hartford HealthCare, she spends her free time after work and on weekends studying plants, mostly perennials, designing garden vignettes for all corners of the one-acre lot, planting, pruning, dead-heading, re-planting and waging a constant battle against the deer, woodchucks, rabbits and other wildlife intent on making her beautiful blooms into a delicious dinner salad.

What do you enjoy about gardening?

I love it, it’s really soothing. I think I love that every year, there’s something different. It’s continually evolving. I hate to say this, but it’s similar to the legislative session. It’s never the same from one year to the next.

How do you know what to plant and what will do well and look great in your gardens?

I was in the Manchester Garden Club and I’m a member of the Horticulture Society. I go to every lecture I can. When I’m done with my professional career, I can’t wait to take the Master Gardener class at UConn.

Do you have a favorite plant or flower?

I’m a big hydrangea fan. (Editor’s note: Harrison’s hydrangeas come in all shapes and sizes, although almost none are the showy blue ones vacationers might see all over Cape Cod. Some have variegated leaves, some boast tiny pin-sized blossoms, and others have only beautiful leaves and no blooms at all.)

How do you repel the critters that want to eat your handiwork?

I use repellant sprays. I use them all. You have to spray all the time and switch out the product so when they get used to one, you try another.

How much time do you spend in the garden during an average summer week?

I spend a good five or six hours a week planting, watering, weeding, dead-heading (removing dead blooms off of plants to encourage new blooms to grow). It’s a hobby.

Has your house ever been on a garden tour?

My old, little Cape house had a spectacular garden that had been on two tours. My current home sits on an acre, only some of it is “gardenable.” I’ve done a lot in seven years, but I still don’t think it’s “tour-worthy” yet.

—Hilary Waldman