It started with a conversation via FaceTime and text between Lukas Sobocinski ’20 and his aunt, a New York City Fire Department paramedic. She told him about the need she and her colleagues had for face masks in their hard-hit city’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. As often is the case, family members are the first people you turn to when in need. It is not surprising then that after his aunt’s simple declaration, Lukas turned to his school community because at heart Gibbons is family.
In April, Lukas, aided by Gibbons administrators and educators, sent an invitation to the entire school community to create masks for Lukas’ aunt and her colleagues. That was the start of the Gibbons Mask Force project, which so poignantly illustrates our school’s mission of faith, service, and leadership.
The project, which grew to include notes of gratitude, cookies, and earsavers, was launched just before the start of Easter break on April 8. Over the next 18 days, members of the Gibbons family answered the call, collecting over 650 masks, some emblazoned with our Gibbons logo. There were also approximately 400 notes of gratitude, four dozen cookies, and 99 earsavers.
Technical Theatre Educator Karestin Harrison wrote some of those notes. “I saw the project as a great way to live out our mission on a national level,” she said. “And writing a thank you card was something I could do instantly.”
Harrison wrote over 25 cards. The messages within the cards, she said, reminded the recipients that they are appreciated, their work matters, and they are some of the true heroes during this pandemic. “Above all, “she explained, “I just said, thank you in all caps.” She signed each note, and on some of them, she drew a little ladybug, which is something of her signature.
Gratitude is why many said they also responded to the call. Among them was Gibbons Principal Nancy Barkan, who took to her sewing machine to assist, sewing those Gibbons branded masks, in what she described as a labor of love.
For Associate Director of Alumni Advancement, Susan Leigh ’87, participating in the project became a “family” affair.
“At a time when I was feeling both helpless and anxious to help, #GibbonsMaskForce enabled me to serve,” Leigh said. “My daughter, Anne Dougherty ’23, joined me in making masks and writing notes of gratitude to first responders and healthcare workers on the front line. It was nice that my sister, Anne Leigh Wankel ’90, was able to join the effort with the help of her daughter from their home in Hendersonville, N.C.”
Ariane Lemaire ’22 also saw the project as an opportunity to help others. “I try to help when I can: it’s an important cause, I had all the time and materials I needed, so it was a no-brainer,” she said. “Usually, I do crafts for my own enjoyment, but here was an opportunity to help others.”
“As a school community,” added Director of Outreach Ministry Gary Meyerl ’82, “we are beyond grateful for the way our Gibbons family – students, parents, educators, and alumni - embraced this outreach initiative. I continue to be overwhelmed with joy that we were able to send over 650 masks and almost 400 notes of gratitude to the courageous paramedics serving on the front line in New York City.”