Sarah Veinot and Max Cucchiella needed to keep themselves — and their seven kids — occupied for two weeks. The COVID-19 pandemic had just hit and they were in Florida for their daughter’s cheerleading tournament. When they returned to Mississauga, Ont., they would have to stay home to quarantine.
So they came back with suitcases full of fabric and put the family to work making face masks, Veinot told HuffPost Canada.
A stranger in Barrie saw their posts on Facebook about making masks and got in touch. She needed something specific for a seniors’ home: 75 masks with a clear panel that would allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to read lips.
“No one was making anything like that. We just ran with it … Social media is amazing,” Veinot said.
“To make them is very difficult, they’re labour intensive.”
But Cucchiella stuck at it, determined to finish the order. When he saw the finished masks didn’t fit well, he redesigned them.
“It’s version 12.0 or something … It went through so many changes,” Veinot said.
The idea took off. In August, the family’s organization The Como Foundation announced a partnership with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA). On Monday, the foundation made a $5-million donation to Trillium Health Partners Foundation with money raised by selling the masks.
Premier Doug Ford thanked the family for its “incredible generosity” and sported one of their lip reading masks at his Queen’s Park press conference Tuesday. He took a break from reporters’ questions to show off his Toronto Raptors-themed mask and its clear plastic panel.
“These masks truly make a difference,” Ford said.
Physical distancing and the use of face masks have been challenging for people who are hard of hearing, the CHHA said in a press release. But the Como Foundation’s masks “benefit everyone.”
Veinot said the new enterprise has changed the family’s life. One of their sons has taken over Cucchiella’s construction business so he can focus on face masks.
“We live and breathe masks. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Veinot said.
Soon, she hopes their masks will be approved for use by teachers and health-care professionals.
“Everyone should be accessible. It’s not the hard-of-hearing or deaf that need the masks, everyone else should be wearing them so everyone can communicate.”
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