Alen Niu, left, gives boxes of personal protective equipment to North York General Hospital CEO Dr. Joshua Tepper. - North York General Hospital photo

North York General gets donations from teen and disaster-relief group

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Four thousand hygiene kits. More than 600 PPE (personal protective equipment) items. Those are just some of the donations staff at North York General Hospital received so far during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospital CEO Dr. Joshua Tepper said in the release that his staff are “going above and beyond during these unprecedented times” and that the gifts “help them feel supported and appreciated.” High school student and North York General volunteer Alen Niu also wanted to show his gratitude to essential workers. When he learned that PPEs were in short supply at the hospital, he sprang into action. “I thought I should do something to help,” the 17-year-old said in a recent interview. “Every day they (hospital staff) go to work, they’re risking their lives.”

Niu went on a mission to find medical-grade PPEs, sending emails to about 100 hospitals and manufacturers in China, requesting the products. “I got an email back from a manager of a hospital in Beijing,” he said. “They introduced me to different supply channels in China of masks, goggles and protective gowns that do meet the standards of North American hospitals.” Niu contacted the suppliers and spent time figuring out the cost of not only the products but of shipping them from China to Canada. “(It) was quite expensive,” the teen said. “But regardless, I was pretty happy about what I found because I finally found one route where I can help the hospital.”

After collecting some money from family and friends, Niu made a few short videos and began a social media campaign to raise awareness and funds. He started a GoFundMe page, raising more than $8,000. He used those funds to buy more than 600 masks, gloves, goggles and gowns, which he then donated to North York General. “I made a lot more of a difference than I expected,” he said, explaining that a lot of his schoolmates at Upper Canada College have since started their own fundraisers to support other communities and hospitals. “That was a pretty exciting point for me that I was able to inspire others,” said Niu, adding “we all have to keep helping until the virus fully ends.”

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