PT student creates masks free of charge for Lexington children and community

Studies show masks and face coverings are essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That’s why physical therapy student Molly Mathistad is lending her creative expertise to sew masks for children who rely on community-based services at Child Development Center of the Bluegrass (CDCB). 

Mathistad said she received an email from Angela Folczyk, an occupational therapist and therapy director at the CDCB, asking CHS students to sew cloth masks for children returning to the center as restrictions eased. 

“I was looking for a way to help since the beginning of the crisis and making masks for these kids was something I knew would be impactful and safe,” she said.

With previous experience in sewing and a strong will to help others, Mathistad researched the safest fabrics to use, taking measurements for varying sizes and picking fun, kid-appropriate patterns for the masks.

After reviewing a study from the University of Chicago, Mathistad developed a four-layer mask composed of both cotton and chiffon to filter out small aerosolized particles. She also included a pocket for filter inserts, nose wires for a better fit, and an elastic wrap to go around the child’s head to avoid ear irritation and soreness.

Once she donated several masks to the center, Mathistad continued to help the Lexington community and began crafting more PPE with leftover fabric and materials.

“It felt like a waste of fabric not to be making more masks,” she said, “With shortages in supplies, I knew people were having trouble getting masks especially in youth sizes.”

Mathistad turned to social media to promote her efforts and started a Facebook page offering to sew masks for those in need free of charge. In a short window of time, she received 45 mask orders and more than $150 in generous donations which she used to support humanitarian aid organizations.

After fulfilling 17 orders, Mathistad is now finishing the remainder while balancing her coursework. She hopes to continue to take orders in the future and help those in need.

“It was a cool experience to see people taking the initiative to protect others in public, and to see people’s generosity in wanting to help others to do the same,” she said.