ARLINGTON, VA — Christina Headrick knows a thing or two about masks.
In 2020, Headrick and another local mother started the Million Mask Challenge for Virginia, Maryland and DC. With the help of 5,300 volunteers, they made and distributed 224,000 cloth masks to first responders around the region.
"The reason that we did that was that the supply chain was broken," she said. "We kind of assumed that what would happen is that N-95 masks would become available to anyone who wanted one and especially the frontline worker."
A mother of two children in Arlington Public Schools, Headrick is also member of Smart Restart APS, a coalition of parents and teachers focused helping students safely return to in-person learning safely.
Although many students returned to their schools last fall with COVID-19 precautions in place, concern grew among parents as the number of new cases began to surge in Arlington.
"When Omicron took off, APS kind of scrambled and got some additional masks," she said. "In mid-December, I was like, 'This seems bad. I'm just going to buy a bunch of masks and hope that donations come through to help me pay for them."
Over the winter break, a bunch of other Arlington parents joined Headrick's effort. They collected money and drove to Home Depots and hardware stores in three states to buy all the available masks they could.
This week, the group donated about 6,000 masks to APS. They will be distributed to all full-time and part-time school employees.
"We'd like to give everybody one more or even two or three more good masks, in addition to the masks that APS scrambled and got at the last minute," she said. "Our hope is that if everybody has access to masks that are high filtration masks, that can do a great job of protecting you from COVID-19, more people can say well, protect their own house, protect their families, and also keep our schools functioning."
Toward that goal of ensuring each APS employee has multiple masks to help them through the Omicron surge, Headrick, along with Christine Bolon, Gilda Acosta, Melissa Daddio and Mona Tarpley, have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $8,000 to pay for more masks. As of 4 p.m. on Friday, the campaign had raised nearly $4,000. The group already has 7,000 masks on order.
"It's very important that every school receive a donation and that this isn't just something that some schools get and others don't," Headrick said. "Even a school that's less well resourced, their staff deserves to be to feel like the community's thinking about them. If we're going do it for anybody, we need to do it for everybody. I think that's a very important idea."
To find out more about the fundraising effort to buy more masks for APS employees or to make a contribution, visit the GoFundMe campaign's website.