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At every snowboard competition, Red Gerard scoops up some extra goggles. The gold medalist in slopestyle at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, who is sponsored by eye-wear-maker Oakley, likes to have extras on hand in case a pair gets scratched, broken or lost during his training sessions.
He expected his stockpile to protect his eyes. Now they may be protecting lives.
Two days ago, Gerard donated that stash, about 10 goggles in total, to a hospital in Colorado through Goggles for Docs. The grassroots campaign sprouted up less than two weeks ago. Since then, it has facilitated the collection of 22,750 new and used goggles from hundreds of skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and mountain bikers across the country to be donated to health care workers in need of extra protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just think it’s such a crazy thing we’re going through right now that anything you can do to help when you can’t do anything, when you’re pent up in house” feels good, said Gerard, who is sheltering at home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., where he recently moved. “For me, it was an opportunity for something to do, something to put my mind toward.”
Full plastic face shields have been in short supply nationwide. So frontline medical workers are getting desperate, and creative, when it comes to personal protective equipment.
“I never imagined wearing ski goggles in the hospital,” Dr. Bryan Huber, the team physician for U.S. Snowboarding and an orthopedic surgeon at Copley Hospital in Vermont, wrote in an email to The Tribune. “At this point in the crisis, any eye protection is valuable for those on the front line, especially EMT, ER staff and those in the ICU.”
That’s what prompted a New York City emergency room doctor, and skier, to reach out March 28 to the staff at the Berkshire East and Catamount Ski areas in Massachusetts looking for ski goggles. Resort general manager Jon Schaefer immediately sent out an email to ski industry personnel and the resorts’ customers seeking donations. It drew an overwhelming response, and a movement was born.
Since then, pediatricians in Missouri, contagious disease specialists in California, dentists in Florida, a teaching university in Puerto Rico and ER doctors in South Dakota have been among those who have requested shipments through Goggles for Docs. No Utah medical facility has made a request yet. However, the state has 12 goggle collection sites, the sixth-most in the country.
“There currently isn’t a big need in Utah for goggles,” said Lara Carlton, the state’s regional director for Goggles for Docs. “But because we have 15 ski resorts and a huge ski and snowboard population here, we have the opportunity to help during this pandemic and help in a kind of unique way.”
Individuals can mail goggles directly to health care facilities by using the addresses provided on the Goggles for Docs website. They can also just drop them off at one of the country’s nearly 200 collection sites.
Carlton is also a spokesperson for U.S. Ski & Snowboard, which established a drop-off site at its office near Park City. She said she sent 30 pairs to a hospital in Los Angeles on Saturday, a day after U.S. Ski & Snowboard started taking donations. She mailed another 27 to Colorado on Monday.
Some of those goggles were found around the training facility and offices. Others came from U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes and staff, who in addition to making donations have promoted the campaign on their social media platforms. Skier Mikaela Shiffrin was one of the first, but she has been joined by the likes of skiers Julia Mancuso and Daron Rahlves, motocross racer Carey Hart and almost all of Burton’s snowboard fleet, including Gerard.
Ski resorts and ski- and eye-wear makers have chipped in as well, both by spreading the word and by donating from their own supplies. Utah native Ted Ligety, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in skiing, is the cofounder of Shred Optics, which makes goggles, helmets and sunglasses. He shipped a box of goggles he had on hand and had collected from friends about two weeks ago after receiving a direct request from a friend who is an administrator at a hospital in San Francisco.
Ligety said that even without goggles on, he can see even more eyewear will be needed as the highly contagious virus hits its peak in the country.
“It’s crazy to think what demand could be,” Ligety said. “It’s great to think this could cover even a fraction of that need; that you could take a product that might not be being used and put it to good work.
“Anything people can do as a community to help flatten the curve and support the medical workers on the front lines is great. If you can do that with a pair of goggles that’s not being used, that’s a bonus.”
GOGGLES FOR DOCS DROP-OFF SITES
The Gear Room, 3422 E. Fort Union Blvd., Cottonwood Heights 84121
Residence, 9004 S. Kings Hill Place, Cottonwood Heights 84121
Beaver Mountain Ski Area, 1351 E. 700 North, Logan 84321
Moto X Powersports, 634 W. 7250 South, Midvale 84047
US Ski & Snowboard, 1 Victory Lane, Park City 84060
Summit County Health Department, 650 Round Valley Drive, Park City 84060
Park City Lodging, 1897 Prospector Avenue, Park City 84060
Residence, 6060 Mountain Ranch Dr., Park City 84098
Residence, 563 Perrys Hollow Road, Salt Lake City 84103
Ski Utah, 2749 E. Parleys Way, Salt Lake City, 84109