Erin Kim, 16, has been using her creative talents for good and to support Massachusetts General Hospital for years, but in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim is using her art skills to create something more practical—sewing cloth face masks.

An assortment of hand-sewn masks
An assortment of hand-sewn masks

When Kim was 8 years old, she was hospitalized for a second degree burn on her face and arm. Following her recovery, she wanted to support hospitals helping children like her. While in the seventh grade, Kim began creating and selling cards featuring her artwork and photography, donating the proceeds to Mass General. 

When she entered high school, Kim decided to not only focus her artistic ventures on supporting Mass General, but applied to volunteer at the hospital despite being below the minimum age requirement. “In the summer before ninth grade, I saw that Mass General was looking for volunteers and submitted my application without hesitation,” says Kim. “My passion couldn't be stopped. After that, I had my interview and formally became a volunteer.”

It was during a volunteer shift that Kim was inspired to begin sewing cloth masks for her colleagues at the hospital. “I was volunteering at the Yawkey Lobby until March 9, and on this day, COVID-19 was spreading in the Boston area and many people were gathered in Mass General's Emergency Department. I learned about the nationwide shortages of masks and equipment and found that situation extremely heartbreaking, and I felt that it was necessary to take action.”

Erin Kim smiles while standing with boxes in her hands
Erin Kim, 16

Jacqueline Nolan, director of Mass General's Volunteer Department, says the masks will be given to staff members for use outside of the hospital.  “It is volunteers like Erin that show the dedication and commitment to the hospital community felt by all of our volunteers, whether they are able to be on campus or not.”

Kim’s masks come in various sizes and patterns—many with little creature prints, a welcome break from the blue or yellow paper masks throughout the hospital.

Kim says, “I'm just hoping that the hospital staff, who are heroes working so hard fighting COVID-19 even at this time, could take a moment to smile after receiving the masks with happy, cute patterns that I made.”