Making Masks Brings Together Longtime Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walkers

Apr 08, 2020 | Community, Stories
Kris Dombroski and Beth Northman

Beth Northman and Kris Dombroski have been on the same Susan G. Komen 3-Day team for years. They’re close – like family – and have supported each other, laughed together and helped each other through tough times.

They’re both avid crafters and quilters and have used their skills to raise money for Susan G. Komen. Collectively, they’ve participated in 65 3-Day events – a series of 3-day, 60-mile walks across the country – that raise money for breast cancer research, patient support and other parts of Komen’s Mission.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the world, Beth and Kris have taken to sewing homemade masks for local health care workers and friends across the country who need, but can’t access, protective gear.

“I saw the idea on CNN – they were interviewing a doctor in Georgia and he said hospital workers were making masks,” Kris said. “I thought ‘Oh my gosh. I can do this.’”

Beth Northman’s masks

Kris said she initially reached out to a local health department official in Michigan to ask if there’s a need for home-made masks. She said she never heard back, but a few days later, she asked a doctor who had come into her store about it. He brushed off the idea.

But a plea for masks from a hospital worker in her hometown of Evansville, In., with a link to a video showing people how to sew them, got Kris’ attention.

“I posted on my Facebook about the masks and had people wanting to help, too, so it became a small way for people to help,” Kris said.

Beth was one of the people who saw Kris’ Facebook post and joined the mask-making effort.

“I’m a sewer, and a quilter, and a fabric hoarder; I had things in my stash I could use to get started,” Beth said. “After I posted the first batch of masks on Facebook, I was overwhelmed with requests asking for masks, but friends and family also were asking, ‘What can I do? Do you need fabric, elastic?’”

A fellow 3-Day teammate in Virginia contacted Beth and Kris and donated 244 yards of elastic to both women.

“She’s kept us in business, because elastic is really hard to come by,” Kris said.

Kris Dombroski

Nurses at nursing homes and in doctors’ offices were the first to accept and use the home-made masks. A few weeks later, hospital workers in Michigan came around on the home-made masks and are now accepting them as fast as the two can make them.

“Two local hospitals are saying ‘yes’ and tell you what time to arrive, and you just text them and give them your car description and they send someone out to pick up the bag and they go back inside,” Beth said.

The masks are being made out of fabric and have a layer of interfacing sewn inside to help block the spread of germs. Beth said local doctors are wearing them over their medical masks as additional protection because the necessary protective gear is not getting to hospitals fast enough.

Beth said she’s lost count of the number of masks she’s made, but it is well over 100. “I’m just doing what I can here,” she says.

Kris has more of a mask-making operation in her home. She’s been able to make more than 700 masks, thanks to the help of her sister, Betsy, a 3-Day crew member; her friend Shelly, a former 3-Day walker; and Kim, a breast cancer survivor and their primary distributor of the masks. Kim’s mother, Judy, is on the same 3-Day team with Beth and Kris.

Additionally, Beth and Kris are filling friend and fellow 3-Day walker requests from across the country as more people find themselves needing protective gear.

Making masks has been an unexpected way for the 3-Day community to come together, but Kris says, the impact of the virus has also been hard. “I just want to see my 3-Day family and can’t imagine not being able to hug them.”

Kris has participated in 28 3-Day events since 2008; Beth has participated in 37 3-Day events since 2002. Collectively they’ve walked more than 2,800 miles and raised more than $130,000 to support Susan G. Komen. Learn more about the 3-Day at The3Day.org