Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen and BASIS Scottsdale

Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen and BASIS Scottsdale sophomore Teen Katelyn Cai met with Michael Herring, COO at Banner Gateway Medical Center, on March 30 to donate 1,500 medical-grade surgical face masks. 

For weeks, a group of more than 30 Chinese American moms in northern Scottsdale, with the help of Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen and BASIS Scottsdale sophomore Teen Katelyn Cai, worked to secure thousands of face masks from relatives overseas. 

They reached out to all of their relatives and connections in China, asking them to order the much-needed masks.

“We tapped deep into the social network to procure the supply from overseas. After spending countless hours to find the right face masks, eventually we received on expedited shipping over 4,000 face masks, 2,000 of which were medical-grade Level I Surgical Masks made by the Canadian company Medicom,” said Jenny Zheng, coordinator of the donation drive and Katelyn’s mom.

The group donated supplies to two organizations the week of March 27: to the City of Scottsdale, more than 2,900 face masks, more than 50 boxes of facial tissues, 12 rolls of toilet paper, 150 medical exam gloves, and a $1,180 check to help families who lost jobs; and to Banner Health Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, 1,500 medical-grade surgical face masks. 

“It is our consensus that we need to stand up and do something for our neighbors and our city. We live here, and we raise our family here. Here is our home, our own community. When we help our neighbors, we help ourselves. Saving our doctors is the same as saving ourselves,” Zheng said.

At Zheng’s household, the coronavirus pandemic hit close to home in January, months before the virus became a reality for Americans. 

They heard many stories from overseas, including from Katelyn’s uncle, a doctor in Shanghai who went to Wuhan to treat patients.

“As Chinese Americans, we are in a unique position in this fight. What happens now, we have seen it before: The lockdowns, face mask shortages, and dire situations in the over-stretched health centers seem all too familiar from two-months-ago China,” Zheng said. “Thus, we probably understand the severity and devastation of coronavirus much earlier than the general American public do.”

“This has kind of been on our minds for a really long time,” Katelyn added. “We hoped it would never come to the United States or get this bad, but we always had it in the back of our minds that we’d be doing whatever we could to help either our relatives or people in our community.”

The group was alerted of the rapidly dwindling supply of face masks at Banner Gateway Medical Center by a medical oncologist who works there.

“The outpouring of community engagement and support from individuals like Katelyn and others inspires us and lets our teams know they have entire communities that care about them and want to help,” said Michael Herring, COO at Banner Gateway Medical Center.

Among those making masks is Patti Council, owner of Glam Squad, a prom and pageant store located in southern Scottsdale. Glam Squad is the official wardrobe partner of the Miss Arizona Organization.

“There are several people in the Miss Arizona organization who are actually making homemade face masks right now and donating them to vulnerable people around the community. It’s something that we encourage for everybody, if they have extra supplies, extra hand sanitizer or masks to donate them if possible,” Katelyn said.

The Glam Squad team made 250 masks and donated them to a senior care facility, two medical offices and several healthcare workers.

“Everyone that we’d made masks for has offered to pay us for them. We cannot monetize a project that is literally life or death for so many,” Council said.

Zheng said the group of Chinese American women and moms plans to start a fund and food drive. 

“Before our donations to the City of Scottsdale and Banner Gateway, one lady from our group had already distributed about 500 face masks to neighbors in her Scottsdale community via Nextdoor,” she said.

Zheng said their group aims to help at-risk people such as seniors, frontline city workers, and healthcare workers. 

“Many Chinese American communities in Arizona and across the U.S. have mobilized and united in the fight against Coronavirus since the pandemic started. Several of these groups have been focusing on sourcing and donating PPEs (personal protective equipment) to healthcare personnel in Arizona. Our small group of Chinese American women/moms in Scottsdale mainly focuses on the communities we live in,” she said.

Katelyn said that it’s also important at this time to combat xenophobia at this time and “show that Chinese Americans are trying to do their part.”

“I want to highlight how big of a role the Asian American and the Chinese American community played in this because, even though I did my part, it was a huge group of moms and families who have committed so much of their time and their own money to this project,” she said.

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