May 13, 2020 – Two Staten Island Technical High School alums have joined forces with their families to donate handmade masks to children being cared for at Richmond University Medical Center’s pediatric ambulatory clinic, located at 800 Castleton Avenue in West Brighton. The “Masks For Minors” team creates the masks in all different sizes, colors and patterns for kids two to six years of age.
“Given what we are recently learning, that small children are experiencing a multisystem inflammatory syndrome, similar to Kawasaki disease, that could be linked to COVID-19, every precaution must be taken to ensure their safety and protection,” president and chief executive officer, Daniel J. Messina, PhD, FACHE, said. “Masks for Minors has come along and through their efforts are giving families tremendous peace of mind. Thank you to everyone with Masks for Minors for you efforts to protect our youngest patients.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous efforts to make face coverings for adults, but few have focused around masks for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their guidelines to recommend that all children two years of age and older wear masks or cloth face coverings when outside or in public. Enter Dr. Sonya Bakshi, psychiatry resident at NYU Langone Medical Center, and Winnie Huang, strategy advisor with the New York City Department of Education. The pair have been best friends since their days at Staten Island Technical High School, where they were graduated in 2010. Huang recruited her mom, Cindy He, a designer seamstress who wanted to lend her expertise in the battle against COVID-19 by crafting masks. She had been making adult masks for family and friends and was able to easily adapt the pattern for young children. Dr. Bakshi recruited her brothers, Michael and Steven Mantello, to fundraise and purchase kid-friendly fabrics for the masks. The brothers, who are both high school students, suggested choosing patterns and themes appealing to children which would increase the likelihood of them wearing the coverings outside. They also suggested making two different sizes: masks that fit children two to four years of age and also four to six years of age.
Within one week, Masks for Minors had designed, fabricated and delivered 100 masks to the clinic. Masks For Minors’ goal is to create and donate over 1,000 masks to the clinic as well as to children who are hospitalized. RUMC’s pediatric ambulatory clinic provides care for nearly 3,000 children from the community, many of whom are from underserved populations.
“Before we started giving out these child-size masks, many children were wearing the adult-size ones on their neck and plenty of others had none,” Dr. Ana Mendez, director of the pediatric ambulatory clinic, said. “We at the clinic are thankful for this effort and the families we serve are pleased their children are better protected.”
Masks for Minors has set up a donation page for anyone wanting to support their efforts: gofundme.com/f/masksforminors.
Laila Collins sports her pink face mask provided to her at RUMC’s pediatric ambulatory clinic.
Young Adewumi Oluwapelumi wears a festive mask with stars and snowmen during his recent appointment.