A 4-H’er turned her curiosity and desire to help others into a project that became bigger than she could have ever imagined.
Riley Springston, a 4-H’er from Mason County, spent her time at home making masks — more than 2,000 to be exact — for her loved ones and folks across the country.
“It’s uplifting to see youths gain skills learned by completing project work and use them in different aspects of their life,” said Lorrie Wright, West Virginia University Extension 4-H youth development agent. “Riley is a perfect example of someone who recognized a need and did her very best to meet that need. She is an inspiration to her community and state.”
Riley said she wanted to help protect her family members who were essential workers.
With a stay-at-home order in place, she enlisted help from her mom, Erica, who taught her how to sew, while also incorporating what was happening in the world into a homeschool curriculum. One of Riley’s first masks was given to her grandpa so that he could wear it to work.
“I wanted to protect everybody. I learned that I could make a difference by providing masks for the many people that needed them,” Riley said.
She didn’t want financial burdens to hinder those around her from being safe. Through generous donations from her community and others, Riley was able to afford all of the materials she needed to keep performing her good deed. She spent countless hours perfecting her craft, and she even started doing her own research to learn how she could make better masks.
“I learned about the different types of filters that keep us the safest and started ordering filters with my donation money so that they could be incorporated into the mask design,” Riley explained.
One day, to the surprise of their family, a brand new sewing machine showed up on their doorstep. The family still has no idea who sent it, but they were extremely grateful for the generous gift. Riley was able to keep sewing her masks and providing a safer world for those around her.
Her story made it to the local news station which was then picked up by other media outlets. From there, she gained enough media coverage to find a need for masks across the country and sent her creations to 18 different states.
In all of this, Riley never cared about recognition or praise, she just wanted to provide some sense of safety to others.
“She never wanted anyone to purchase the masks, because she wanted to donate all of them. She said it didn’t matter if people could buy them or not — she wanted them to stay safe,” Erica said. “She is so selfless and caring, and I am truly proud of her and all the work she’s done.”
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