Valentine Project turns focus to pandemic masks

Valentine Project turns focus to pandemic masks

Valentine Project turns focus to pandemic masks

Local nonprofit The Valentine Project has taken on a new task during the global pandemic — pairing sick kids with colorful masks.

For a number of years, the organization has focused on brightening the Valentine’s Day of children with cancer and other illnesses — as well as their siblings. The idea was started by the Margida family and has grown a lot over the years — this year serving more than 700 Ohio children.

When COVID-19 began making it’s way through the U.S., it was made clear that one of the most vulnerable populations is those with compromised immune systems and pre-existing conditions — the same population assisted each February by The Valentine Project.

Andrea Margida, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said the pandemic hit just as they were wrapping up the busiest season of the year, when hundreds of volunteers worked together to send packages filled with toys and treats to children for Valentine’s Day.

“The first thing we did, really, as a response to social distancing, was ramp up our Kindness Card Program. Our goal was to send love to children in isolation, whether due to their serious illness or to the pandemic. As much of the country struggled with social distancing for the first time, we wanted people to realize that isolation is a necessary way of life for many of the children we serve, especially those with compromised immune systems.”

Margida said they encouraged volunteers to make a card with a silly joke or riddle which was mailed to the children on its list. “The cards are a great way to remind the families that someone is thinking of them, and to spread love while staying safe by respecting the rules of social distancing,” she said.

Knowing how vulnerable the sick children are, Margida said they decided to try to help in a bigger way.

“We deal with children who are already facing serious health issues, which can make them highly vulnerable to infections. In many cases, physicians have made it clear to these parents that their child won’t survive a COVID-19 infection. Can you imagine how terrifying it would be, as a parent, to hear that?” she said. “And yet these children still need to go to the hospital for life-saving treatments, so they need some form of protection.”

Their goal was to supply masks to these children and their families, again using its system of allowing those in need to make a request and having the help of volunteers to fill those requests.

“Parents were terrified about taking their children to medical appointments without protection and were unable to find masks anywhere,” Margida said. “We want to alleviate some of the stress these families deal with, so continuing to make sure they can turn to The Valentine Project for masks makes sense.”

They are calling the effort Operation Send Smiles Not Germs, which they hope to continue for the next few weeks, or as long as there is a need, Margida said.

As the call was put out, the volunteers have already begun stepping up. She said they have received a steady stream of homemade masks, including from members of Sew Happy Carnation Quilters.

Each donation is sorted by size, packaged and sent out on a rolling basis as they get them.

Margida said so far they have sent more then 300 masks to the families on its list, but they already have orders for 300-plus more, as requests keep coming in on a daily basis. She said the organization is in need of more masks and financial donations to keep pace with the growing demand.

The organization is requesting donations of homemade masks using cotton fabric as well as medical grade masks. Since all members of the family need masks and they serve infants through age 21, a range of sizes is needed.

“Supplies are limited, so people are getting creative with the masks,” she said. “We have received donated masks with many child-friendly patterns on them, ranging from well-known cartoon characters to fun, brightly-colored designs. Wearing a mask might be scary for a child, but a fun pattern could make the experience a bit easier.”

The Valentine Project is a volunteer driven charitable nonprofit in the 10th year of its mission of spreading love, hope and joy — something they hope to continue doing. Margida said to do so they rely on the support of many volunteers and donors. Those who wish to support their efforts can donate masks, join the Kindness Card Program, purchase supplies, or make a financial donation.

Masks can be dropped off at The Valentine House, where there is a container on the porch. Masks and donations can also be mailed to The Valentine House, 11592 McCallum Avenue NE, Alliance, OH 44601.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/thevalentineprojectusa/ or https://thevalentineproject.org, or email questions to [email protected].

 

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