In times of crisis, especially when instructed to stay home, it can feel difficult to help, but one ski hill tucked away in the Berkshire Mountains has given the ski world an opportunity to make an immediate impact.
Karin Tanenbaum, a long-time ski coach at Catamount Ski Area in New York, received an email from a friend whose nephew, Mike Halperin, is an emergency room doctor at Jacobi Medical Center in New York. His request was for ski goggles to serve as temporary protective eyewear while treating COVID-19 patients.
“Eye protection is one aspect of the personal protective equipment that staff require to stay safe,” said Halperin. “Our [doctors] are not alone in these emergency departments, it is the ultimate team sport. We have nurses, techs, attending physicians, respiratory therapists, patient transporters, etc. [all needing eye protection].”
Tanenbaum reached out to the Catamount ski community and with the support from Heather Dohr, a fellow Catamount coach and nurse anesthesiologist, and Jon Schaefer, the owner of Catamount Ski Area and Berkshire East Ski Area, a project plan was born. Through the power of social media, word of “Project Skier Shield” quickly began to spread on Facebook and other platforms.
When Schaefer first saw the email calling for ski goggles for medical workers, he immediately knew it was a project he wanted to support. Schaefer reached out to Halperin and they discussed hospital needs. From there, Schaefer created the first google sheet to organize goggle donations and logistics.
“I woke up the next morning to hundreds of messages either on facebook, social media, or my personal email,” said Schaefer. “As I left the grocery store that morning, I got an email from Inntopia, a ski resort software company, offering their services and help in any way possible. They were able to build a website in the time it took me to get from the grocery store home.”
With the creation of the website and the addition of a new name, Goggles for Docs as a campaign was born.
Goggles for Docs is answering the pleas of frontline medical workers who lack the appropriate eye care to safely treat COVID-19 patients.
“Not only is there a huge sentiment of wanting to help from the public, but there is also a huge need from the hospitals,” says Schaefer.
David Kearing, an emergency room physician in Maine and U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team physician, explained that there is an assumption that anyone who comes to a hospital with a cold or a cough has the virus. Thus, in hospitals anyone interacting with a potential patient must be wearing full protective gear including personal protective eyewear.
Kearing says, “I think it’s a great idea. Certain communities definitely have a shortage of protective eyewear. People are coming to the hospitals 24/7 and so anything that’s protective eyewear especially like a goggle with a clear or yellow lens will be taken in a heartbeat.”
Goggles for Docs is currently serving 11 states and 31 hospitals with the number increasing daily. The streamlined website provides the ability to either donate goggles or request goggles. With clear numbered steps and easy to access google sheets, Goggles for Docs has created an efficient system of directing goggles from homes to hospitals. As protective medical supplies across the country are dwindling, some of the hospitals on Goggles for Docs are requesting 300-plus goggles, a reflection of the pressing need and importance of this movement.
Skiers are encouraged to get head start summer cleaning: Rummage through the basement. Look in the garage. Empty out old boot bags. Each pair of goggles has the potential to save a medical worker’s life and, thereby, increases the amount of care that the public receives. Goggles, new or used, are accepted and the numbers needed grow each day as more and more hospitals sign up.
As of March 31, over 2,700 goggles had been shipped to various hospitals. The reaction and support from the ski community has been overwhelming. Schaefer noted the large donations made by brands, specifically Uvex, and the collection of goggles from ski clubs like the Catamount Ski Team and Mount Mansfield Ski Club & Academy.
“There have been so many people who have stepped up and joined this mission,” says Tanenbaum. “It truly has been the product of love.”
As the number of Facebook shares, Instagram stories, and photos of goggle shipments are posted, the presence of compassion and unity within the ski racing community is truly displayed.
For more information or to donate a pair of goggles, visit their website.