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The coronavirus outbreak has turned ordinary people into heroes

Haeli Hauritz picks up goggles for Goggles for Docs, an organization getting goggles to health care workers who need eye protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Sandy on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Layton Fire Department’s request for 75 goggles has been filled, but Goggles for Docs has a list of other hospitals and medical facilities where people can mail their donations.
Haeli Hauritz picks up goggles for Goggles for Docs, an organization getting goggles to health care workers who need eye protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Sandy on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Layton Fire Department’s request for 75 goggles has been filled, but Goggles for Docs has a list of other hospitals and medical facilities where people can mail their donations.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Before the coronavirus crisis, it might have seemed silly to think skiers, snowboarders and sewers could be instrumental in the battle to protect and save lives.

But all across Utah, ordinary people are answering the call with whatever talent or weapon they have, and in two cases, that opportunity came in unlikely ways.

Like most people, Lara Carlton felt disappointed when the ski season was cut short due to coronavirus precautions. So when an opportunity to help in the fight made its way to her office at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, she didn’t hesitate.

“It’s been really amazing as a community to come together for something positive at this time,” said Carlton, the communications manager for U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “With the ski season being cut short, some people might be feeling sad and helpless, and this is a way they can actually make a difference.”

So what can homebound skiers do to help battle COVID-19? Well, it turns out those ski goggles work pretty well as protection equipment for health care workers.

“It all started on March 28,” said Carlton, “when Jon Schaefer, the (general manager) at Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Massachusetts got an email from a doctor in New York City who was looking for used goggles to give his team for eye protection while treating COVID-19.”

Schaeffer contacted Tiger Shaw, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, and that began a chain of giving that has surprised everyone’s initial hopes.

“(Schaefer) was just letting us know this effort was starting,” Carlton said. “Tiger reached out internally to employees to see how we could assist in the effort. Myself and a couple of other employees set up a collection bin.”

The response was overwhelming, and soon Carlton was named the Utah regional coordinator for a nationwide effort dubbed Goggles for Docs.

“We’ve been working with ski areas like Deer Valley, which donated 90 pair of goggles,” she said. “And to date, we have donated 257 pair of goggles to health care workers in California and Colorado.”

She said there are donation bins around Park City and Salt Lake City, with new partners coming on board everyday. Information about where and how to donate can be found at gogglesfordocs.com.

“A local resident in Snyderville collected about 40 goggles,” she said. “It’s really started to take off. There is not a current need in the state (of Utah) health care system, because we have a good supply chain. But we’re collecting for those that do need them.”

She said the ski and snowboard community has been thrilled to find a way to contribute to the fight against the virus that stole their season and has taken so much from so many people. She said it feels good to take something that may not even be useful to someone and give it to people who are in desperate need.

“It will actually be put to use and will make a real difference for those workers,” Carlton said. “The situation changes daily, but right now, we’ve donated 23,000 pairs across the country. It’s pretty incredible.”

All across Utah ordinary people are answering the call to help in the fight to keep people safe and healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Tooele, one woman started a mask-making effort that ensures anybody who wants a mask can have one.

Traci Sablan started sewing masks when the call for help went out last month. To date, she’s made about 3,000.

Now others are joining her in sewing or donating money to support the effort. About 12 people sew the masks, while dozens of others collect the material needed to make them. Others have offered financial support.

The result is a mask-making effort in two locations — her home and a second home in Stansbury Park. Volunteers make the masks and leave them in a bin on her front steps. Anyone who wants one is welcome to take one, for free.

“It’s pretty amazing over the past couple of weeks,” Sablan said of the way others have supported the effort financially and by helping her sew the masks. “It makes me so proud to live here. We don’t know any of them, but they’re all helping out. None of this would happen if it wasn’t for them.

Because the materials are donated and the masks are sewn by volunteers, Sablan said she plans to use the money for those who’ve been hurt financially as coronavirus precautions have shut down most businesses.

And a Kaysville company has joined forces with two other Davis County companies to offer health care workers a unique thank you.

“We normally include a donation to one of four charities with any purchase of our gifts,” said Morgan Falevai of Brilliant Gifts. “With all the effects of coronavirus, we just wanted to say thank you to the people on the front lines of keeping us all safe.”

The company reached out to other local businesses and several jumped on board, even though they’ve been struggling since COVID-19 precautions were put into place by county and state government.

Lisa’s Passion for Popcorn and Summit Sweets, both Davis County businesses, donated items to the gift boxes that began to make their way to first responders on Friday. Falevai said they delivered the tokens of appreciation to seven places — hospitals, fire stations and police stations.

They hope support for the gift boxes will allow them to deliver dozens more in the coming days and weeks.

“We’ll do this indefinitely,” Falevai said. “Until the coronavirus fears calm down and we can get back to a sense of normalcy.”