A masked hero.

by Lily Brandes in

Lily Brandes wearing a Tough Duck Face Mask while standing in front of Strathcona School in Winnipeg holding mask donations

I’m a grade 12 student at Vincent Massey Collegiate in Winnipeg. Earlier in the pandemic I had been balancing my online school work and spending time with my parents and brothers. I was feeling pretty good about life and heading back to school this September.

But the numbers of infections in Winnipeg were ticking up and the risk of COVID was getting higher. Parents and teachers were nervous. I wanted to do something to help. Knowing that some families can’t afford to buy good quality, reusable masks for their kids, I decided to start a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy some.

I sat down with my mom and dad and we went through all of our contact lists. I sent out the link and word spread fast. I had set a goal for $1,500 but was only planning to keep the fundraiser open for a couple of weeks so I could quickly purchase and distribute the masks. I wasn’t sure if I’d get that much that quickly.

I ended up raising $2,142. Honestly, I can’t say that I’m too surprised at the fundraiser’s success—many people around me are very supportive and generous. I was surprised that I was able to surpass my goal in such a short period of time, though. My family has celebrated every donation with me.

Lily Brandes showing the boxes of masks she's donating

I had the money, but I needed masks. I reached out to Tough Duck after hearing positive feedback about a mask the company made for local restaurant workers. I needed to find a company that could supply a large quantity of masks, and supply them quickly. I thought it was worth a shot!

The company offered me a great price on the masks, but their generosity and kindness didn’t stop there. Gavin Rich, the president of Tough Duck, donated 240 masks to my cause, allowing me to donate many more masks to those in need of one.

Lily Brandes wearing a Tough Duck Face Mask holding up bags of mask donations for schools

In total, I distributed 792 masks to elementary kids. The response has been amazing. I’ve received cards from students along with pictures of them holding their new Tough Duck mask. Some principals have said I’ve inspired them to take initiative and do things for their own community, like sock drives. They are also using my fundraiser as a way of teaching their students about what it means to be an active leader in the community and what it looks like to pay it forward.

Tough Duck Safety Mask package with a spread joy not the virus label on it

I hope parents and teachers feel more at ease, knowing their students are safe. I know they are comfortable and stylish in their soft, adjustable masks. It’s just one thing, but I hope these donations help everyone have a safer school year.