In the past month, the world has endured a difficult collective experience unlike anything we’ve ever faced. As the reality of the pandemic set in, it was hard to remain optimistic. It seemed like nothing good could come from this.
And yet, we have seen good. We’ve watched communities come together to raise funds for local businesses that have been forced to close their doors; we’ve witnessed people assisting the most vulnerable members of our population, including the elderly and the homeless; and we’ve seen people use their knowledge and skill sets to support individuals who are on the front lines of this fight. In honor of Occupational Therapy Month 2020, I wanted to shine a light on one such worker who is making a difference in her community.
Earlier this month, I put out a call for OTs to share their stories about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them, which is how I met Amanda Beason, OTR/L. Beason is a school-based occupational therapist who works for Chesterfield County Schools in Richmond, VA. A former social worker, Beason explained that many of the children on her caseload were receiving occupational therapy services. This inspired her to become an OT herself in 2013.
Rallying for a Cause
Like many school districts across the country, Chesterfield County Schools were forced to close their doors for the remainder of the school year, which meant Beason had to begin working from home. That’s when she heeded the call to action: Beason joined a Facebook group called RVA Masks 4 Health, whose members sew protective masks for healthcare workers. According to Beason, there were about 300 people in the group when she first joined, but it has now grown to more than 4,000 members. She soon became involved in a large-scale effort to make and distribute masks and equipment for workers in high-risk positions.
“Prior to the closure, I was using a 3D printer—which was grant-funded by the Chesterfield Education Foundation—to make devices for students who needed adaptive equipment,” Beason explains. “I learned about another group based on the first one for RVA makers—but specifically for COVID-19. From there, I met some other mask makers and began making masks [using my 3D printer].” (You can take a look at Beason’s handiwork below.)
“The masks in the picture are part of a larger donation going to USPS, I believe,” she said.
When she explained the design of the mask to me, Beason noted that the square panel in the middle holds a filter—and that others in the group are developing the accompanying filters. Beason has also printed ear savers (pictured below) to be worn with sewn masks “as they are really hard on your ears after a while.”
Supporting Families and Students
In addition to working for the school district, Beason runs a website called Your School OT where she provides educational resources for other school-based OTs. Though she’s unable to work in schools at the moment, this has not stopped her from providing education and support for families during this difficult time. Beason is currently using her website’s blog to publish how-to videos she’s created to help parents and caretakers work with their children while they’re at home.
In the example above, Beason provides an excellent resource for parents with children who are likely spending more time online than usual. We love that she’s using her platform to expand her resources and support families during a time when that support is needed most.
This ongoing crisis has created unprecedented challenges for everyone, but OTs like Amanda Beason—who’ve gone above and beyond to overcome those challenges—provide inspiration to us all. So, thank you, Amanda—and thank you, occupational therapists. We are so grateful for the work you do, and you show us that even during the worst of times, it’s possible to continue doing good.