Kona roller derby team members raise funds, purchase 1,000 N95 masks for health care workers

  • Knockout job

Members of the Echo City Knockouts Roller Derby Team are ready to make their first donation of 1,000 N95 masks to Big Island health facilities.

The majority of the masks, 700 in all, will go to staff at Kona Community Hospital through the Kona Hospital Foundation with an additional 150 going to Hilo Medical Center and 110 to North Hawaii Community Hospital. Forty of the coveted masks that provide protection from COVID-19 have already been delivered to Hamakua-Kohala Health Center.

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“We are thrilled with the Roller Derby ladies,” Kona Community Hospital Spokeswoman Judy Donovan said of the team’s donation.

The effort began last month, after Miki Hajek, a long-time member of the local roller derby team, learned of the need for the personal protective equipment from friends in the medical field.

“We have a bunch of nurse friends that work at Kona Community Hospital and they were saying how they have to recycle the masks and they were getting really nervous about it,” she said.

That’s because PPE supplies are becoming a challenge to find as demand grows, especially for the masks. Hajek’s friends also told to her they were having trouble getting new supplies.

“They are using a lot on the mainland, so there’s a bidding war going on, and since Hawaii isn’t the highest priority because we are considered a low-risk zone, they are having a difficult time getting them,” she said.

So, Hajek and her husband, Bob, started a GoFundMe page in early March to raise funds to purchase masks. Thanks to having extra time, Miki Hajek said she was able to find the same Chinese company supplying New York City with PPEs.

“By the end of March, we raised enough for a down payment on the mask order,” said Miki Hajek, adding she placed her first order March 28, ahead of the Chinese government putting regulations into place on the export of PPEs, requiring manufacturers be certified and products be inspected before leaving the country.

All donations are used to purchase masks, which cost about $2, including fees and the cost of shipping, Hajek said. Donors can also select which facility their contribution will impact.

“If you want your donation to be directed to Kona Community Hospital or North Hawaii Community Hospital, you can choose that, or if you don’t have a preference, you can donate to the cause and that money will be divided between all the hospitals,” she said. “My husband and I are representing Kona Community Hospital. Others are representing Waimea (North Hawaii Community Hospital), Hamakua-Kohala Health Center and Hilo Medical Center.”

Hajek and other members of her roller derby team challenge other teams around the state to start their own local fundraiser.

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“We are hoping other Derby girls would like to start this for their Island,” she said. “It’s for our community.”

To contribute to the effort, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/gqgzw-n95-mask-for-hospital-workers.

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