Youth taking action in COVID-19 fight

Although virus is mainly impacting seniors, high school students are finding ways to help

Series: Flattening the curve | Story 8

Local young people are leading the way during the pandemic in responding to the community's need for personal protective equipment, including these teens answering the call.

Let's Make Corona OVR!

That's the new motto of the OVRwear custom T-shirt company, an enterprise launched last year by four Hinsdale Central freshmen and friends, who shifted their resources last month into making cloth masks for those in need.

Several of them have parents in the medical field, according to Shrihan Atluri, whose mom is a medical director at a nursing home.

"I heard her talking about how she needs masks and how she's surprised that a lot of elderly people at nursing homes just don't have these masks," Atluri said.

The material and straps of surgical and N95 masks can be uncomfortable for older people to wear, said Ani Girish, and the company was in perfect position to respond.

"We're trying to find that thin line of comfort along with protection," he said. "We don't want elderly people or people who have disabilities to not feel comfortable wearing a mask."

Shi Chen can relate.

"I have some masks of my own, and they are very hard to breathe in. So we want to provide the best comfort to the people we're giving them to," he remarked.

And with cloth masks available, more N95 masks are available for frontline workers.

"We also realized how many hospitals need the N95 masks, which is why we chose to have our own custom masks made out of cloth that we can get to people," Chen added.

Alex Aschinberg said the fact they're reusable is also an advantage.

"When (people) get these masks, they don't have to go out and try to buy more. If they need to use them again, they just wash them," he said,

Thanks to more than $1,000 in donations collected through a campaign, the boys have been able to increase their mask production from 250 to at least 315. Distribution is expected to start next week, with recipients spread across the Chicago area and as far away as a Wyoming Indian reservation.

"Now we can save a lot more lives in more places," Girish commented.

The extra funds also will pay for expedited shipping, Atluri noted.

"That really helps us get (the masks) to the people who need it right now," he said.

COVID-19 spurs crocheting

Hinsdale freshman Maddie Lipman and friends started Hinsdale Cares for Healthcare and Seniors to obtain and deliver PPE, including goggles, face masks and face shields, as well as ear-friendly loop adapters for masks, to local health care facilities and senior homes.

"We heard about PPE shortages, and we were concerned about trying to keep Hinsdale and the surrounding communities as safe as possible," Lipman said.

The ear loop adapters hit Lipman's radar after her parents complained about ear pain when wearing a mask. She found directions for crocheted ear loop adapters, taught herself to crochet and enlisted others, even some unlikely contributors.

"Even my dad learned how to crochet to help the cause," she remarked.

The results have been impressive.

"We've helped many people by distributing over 2,000 masks, face shields and homemade ear loop adapters to over 100 seniors, several medical practices and nursing homes," Lipman reported. "We distribute the supplies all over the place - in the immediate area and even as far as Aurora and Park Ridge."

HCHS delivers the supplies right to people's doors in some instances, said Lipman, who uses her own two-wheeled conveyance to do the job when possible.

"One thing for sure, delivering the supplies by bicycle has been the highlight of my quarantine," she remarked.

The outreach has also afforded her and her collaborating friends a chance to stay connected while maintaining social distancing. The appreciative notes from recipients have been gratifying.

"Thank you so much for delivering masks to my front door! I am 95 and a 50-year resident of Hinsdale. I survived the Great Depression and my service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. I have never experienced a pandemic," the writer said.

"For us, it's all about keeping safe and healthy. Plus, it's a great excuse to keep in touch," Lipman said.

Teen logs miles to bring PPE

Despite the current stay-at-home guidelines, Hinsdale's Adam Kipp has been covering a lot of territory in recent weeks to spread protection. He's personally made excursions to a hospital in Bolingbrook, to sites in Homer Glen and Plainfield (in one day) and even a to surgical center in Munster, Ind., to deliver PPE.

Kipp, a freshman at St. Ignatius College Prep, was made aware from medical professionals in his family that equipment was sorely needed among health care workers. He started Protect Our Community Group in early April and set up a Facebook page and gofundme account. Soon inquiries were coming in from nursing homes and seniors.

"I was very surprised by the amount of people that requested supplies," he said.

Kipp's childhood friend Vijay Dasari in northwest Indiana joined him, helping expand their geographic reach. Other friends have also pitched in. On top of the $3,146 to date raised through gofundme, the Indian American Medical Association provided a $3,000 grant.

"I didn't expect so many donations to come into use. This is really helping our group grow a lot," Kipp commented.

To date the group has distributed 2,500 masks, 1,100 gloves, dozens of disinfectant sprays and about 20 face shields.

He thanks his parents, Jingling and Robert, for chauffeuring him and the supplies.

"Sometimes there just isn't enough of something and you might have to be the one to bring it to those in need," he said.

The evidence that he is making a difference is rewarding.

"People we work with are really grateful for all the supplies that we give them, and we're happy to see that we find it useful," Kipp said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean