'Innermost truth is love': Brandeis parents donate 30,000 masks to Massachusetts General Hospital

a box of medical masks donated by Chinese students at Brandeis

A box containing medical masks that Brandeis parents donated to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

They bore witness to the first wave, so they knew what was coming and they wanted to help.

A group of Brandeis parents, all Chinese and including some doctors, watched as the slow-motion disaster that shut down their country in January began to unfold in the United States. It looked all too familiar.

“We know the doctors and nurses are short on equipment because it happened in China earlier,” said Jane Meng P ’22, a staff member at the International Business School and a Brandeis parent. “Some parents are doctors. They knew the feeling. They knew how important it is to protect the doctors and healthcare workers.”

A volunteer group of more than a dozen parents, based in China, the U.S. and around the world activated their networks and over several days secured, transported and donated 30,000 FDA-certified procedure masks to Massachusetts General Hospital.

Meng was one of many parents who helped organize a fundraiser and scrambled to pin down a cache of the hard-to-find masks.

Many have donated their time to fighting the coronavirus, both in China and the United States, but the group as a whole had bigger ideas. They wanted to pool their resources to have a greater impact than they could achieve individually.

“The idea came together that it would be good for the Brandeis Chinese community as a whole to donate to a hospital, to make a bigger difference,” Meng said.

Jane Meng, P '22, left, Kayson Ding '21, center, and Thomas Chen P '24, right, personally delivered 30,000 face masks to MGH on April 1.

Jane Meng, P '22, left, Kayson Ding '21, center, and Thomas Chen P '24, right, personally delivered 30,000 face masks to MGH on April 1.

On March 21, they began raising money from more than 350 Brandeis parents of Chinese heritage. In one day, using the Chinese social media app WeChat, the group raised about $20,000, said Haizhen Ding P ’21, the Beijing-based mother of Kayson Ding ’21. In all, they raised roughly $30,000.

Then they scoured their networks to find a company with masks to sell and a way to deliver them as close to Boston as possible.

Zhengchao Jiu P ’21 called one of his contacts, the CEO of Jointown Medical Devices Group, a large medical products distributor with warehouses in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City, to arrange purchase of the masks.

But he hit a snag trying to charter delivery of the masks to Boston. Many services said they wouldn’t be able to get the masks to Boston for weeks in some cases, and Jointown could not move the masks itself.

“We tried to find a paid driver, but there are difficulties finding delivery services right now,” Ding said. That’s when New York City-based Thomas Chen, P’24, volunteered to drive 60 boxes of masks from New York to the hospital.

On April 1, 11 days after the group of parents put their idea into motion, Chen and Meng were on hand to deliver 30,000 looped-ear procedure masks to MGH. In true Brandeisian spirit, the parents adopted the slogan, “Innermost Truth Is Love,” and affixed it to all the boxes.

Gary Mulrey,  MGH receiving manager, said the staff was thrilled about the donation. “It will enable us to keep using the ear loop masks at the hospital entrances and other internal locations to keep our employees safe for most of the week,” he said. “We can’t thank them enough for taking the time and effort to drive this inventory to us.”

The parents were delighted that it worked out well because they feel a deep connection to the Boston area through their Brandeis community.

“The university takes care of our children very well, including housing, dining and other arrangements. We are very grateful for that,” Ding said. “We think what we’re doing is expressing gratitude from the bottom of our hearts, and it’s kind of a paying it forward thing.”

The parents aren’t done, either. Even though it’s difficult to find the masks in quantity, and even more so to find high-quality FDA-certified masks for use in American hospitals, they’re in the process of putting together another donation, this time with the aim of helping the Waltham police and fire departments and Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

“It shows our collective strength during the pandemic,” Ding said. “We can absolutely win the battle.”

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