Northeast Florida Teens Step Up To Help Region Deal With Coronavirus

Apr 10, 2020

As governments, businesses, and organizations struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, individuals are stepping up to lend a helping hand, including three Northeast Florida teens.

Aidan Chau, 16, is a junior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, where he majors in clarinet performance. He founded Artfully Green in October of 2019 to help raise climate change awareness and fund climate research, but now – for the second time in the nonprofit’s short life – the focus is being shifted to COVID-19.

Back in January, before the coronavirus had reached pandemic status in the U.S., Artfully Green raised more than $20,000 to help supply the city of Wuhan, China, with masks and other medical supplies. 

Thousands of medical supplies were shipped to Wuhan as a result of the nonprofit’s efforts.

After seeing the disease spread in his own backyard, Chau decided to focus on coronavirus again and launched a new Artfully Green initiative called Jacksonville Against COVID-19 (JAC).

Related: Jacksonville Teen Aims To Fund Climate Change Research, Raise Awareness With Nonprofit

“We link together major local organizations and pull together our resources for a better more organized response to COVID-19 in Jacksonville,” said Chau.

The organizations involved at this point are the Jacksonville Chinese Association, PAX Technology Inc., UNF Brooks College of Health, and Baptist Health, but Chau says he’s working to bring others on board as well.

Already, JAC has helped procure about $78,000 in medical equipment for Baptist Health. 

According to Baptist Health, American Hongbo Ag Co. and the University of North Florida’s Department of Health Administration also contributed to the more than 37,000 pieces of PPE, including 23,000 N95 masks and 14,000 gloves, received earlier this week.

“We're planning to, obviously, continue to raise more funds and try and secure more masks from outside of Jacksonville and perhaps reach out to education programs to help keep virtual learning and things like that alive and running well,” Chau said.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

Chau isn’t the only local teen making a difference in this time of crisis.

St. Johns Country Day School senior Sahaj Patel, 18, and junior Jona Kats, 17, are using 3D printers to make face shields for medical professionals and first responders in the community.

Patel and Kats helped start SJ3D Labs at St. Johns Country Day School’s 3D printing lab a couple of years ago to gain experience designing and printing 3D materials. While the school campus was still open, they moved the 3D printers and other equipment to Kats’ house and started producing face masks.

“The lab has been our project for the last few years and with the coronavirus shutdowns, it and the equipment were going unused. We were sitting on the sidelines watching others with similar equipment make a difference in their communities, and we knew we had to act,” said Patel, who graduates next month.

“The idea became a reality when we migrated lab operations to my house,” Kats said. “We made the first face shield prototypes based on a widely used certified design, which we’ve tweaked a little since then.”

The two have made 30 face shields so far, which they donated to Clay County Emergency Management on Thursday afternoon. Now that they’ve worked out all the kinks, Patel and Kats say they can make that many every day.

To help fund their efforts, Patel and Kats set up a GoFundMe page, which as of Friday afternoon had already raised more than $4,000.

“With our new funding, which we just got, we should be able to keep this going for as long as it's needed,” said Kats.

To donate to Artfully Green and support Jacksonville Against COVID-19, click here. To contribute to SJ3D Labs’ efforts, click here.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.