A military doctor inspired local children to support frontline workers after sharing his secret to becoming a superhero: wearing a mask.
Christy Hanbyul Na, a military spouse, teamed up with military kids from Travis Air Force Base to decorate and distribute masks for frontline workers and deployed service members.
Na’s husband, who treated the first COVID community spread patient in the U.S., is a third-year emergency medicine resident at a hospital in Sacramento, California. She said she’s used to seeing her husband leave for work with a smile on his face, but lately, the stress and strain of treating COVID-19 related patients has started to wear on him.
“He sees ICU beds piling up and fears for the day he might have to take a ventilator off a patient to put on another patient,” Na said.
So, she decided to do something about it. Before beginning this project, Na didn’t have much experience with a sewing needle and thread. She taught herself to sew masks in her limited free time. She knew that many frontline workers like her husband weren’t going to get a chance to spend the holiday season with their loved ones, and she wanted to find a way to give back.
Initially, Na planned to send gifts filled with candy, a thank you card, and a mask to frontline military personnel. But she quickly realized that this project would take a lot of help, so she enlisted the support and efforts of elementary school students from Scandia Elementary School and Travis Elementary School, and the Travis Air Force Base Youth Center.
“When I came up with the idea, military kids immediate came to my mind because I knew I could count on them to understand what it feels like for frontline workers who might not get to go home for the holidays,” Na said.
After Na sewed the masks, it was up to the kids to decide how to decorate them. Some masks were decorated with hearts and smiling faces, while others were decorated with patriotic colors. The masks were distributed over Christmas and included a photo of the children who were part of the project, along with treats and a card.
Na set up a Travis AFB Kids Instagram page to highlight the military kids’ efforts. Recipients of the masks included military service members, police officers, firefighters, nurses, and other frontline workers. Na hopes the kids who participated in the project learned that superheroes come in lots of forms and sometimes look like military personnel and postal workers and grocery store workers.
“Masks give them superpowers against the coronavirus villain, just like Captain America’s shield,” she said.
Na’s ultimate goal was to give thanks and hopefully bring a smile to the frontline workers who sacrifice their lives and work tirelessly against the coronavirus fight. She said the delivery of masks in December was a small part of giving back, but she hopes to repeat the experience in the future.