By GENEVIEVE SUZUKI
Although they are never welcome, crises can bring out the best in people.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people like me are hunkering down with their families, baking bread and cutting their own kids’ hair, and doing whatever they can to tread water. And there’s no shame in that. We do what we need to do to survive.
But I wish I could be more like Andrew Truong, who went from spending his own $30 on a few masks for frontline workers to fundraising thousands for the cause.
Truong, a 27-year-old instructor at White Dragon Martial Arts in La Mesa, was moved to action by a nurse friend who described having a difficult time obtaining personal protection equipment, more commonly known as PPE.
“That’s when I really learned the heartbreaking truth about what is happening behind the scenes and how this pandemic is affecting their personal lives,” Truong said. “Immediately, I wanted to help everyone on the frontlines, but of course I didn’t have the resources so I created the fundraiser on GoFundMe as a way to gain the resources so I could buy masks on a larger scale.”
After launching the GoFundMe page, also known as “The Battle of the Mask,” to raise money and posting it on social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, Truong began sending masks for free – shipping included – to first responders, healthcare workers and their families. When I spoke with Truong on May 15, he had raised more than $3,000 and distributed approximately 1,500 masks. His goal – for now – is $5,000.
Those who know Truong are not surprised about this mission.
“He has always been the sort of person at the school to help me with a positive attitude toward training,” said Jules Wertis, a student at White Dragon. “People like him give me a feeling of hope.
“This crisis shows people through a magnifying glass. We see who people really are at their core. Mr. Truong is a person of the highest character. We need to hear stories of positive people doing good deeds in times like this,” continued Wertis, who works as a San Diego library assistant.
As word has spread about Truong’s good work, his crusade has expanded enough to require a little help from his friends. One friend is handling email follow-ups and two more volunteers are looking into getting “#battleofthemask” ironed onto masks for distribution.
“My sister is using a Cricut Maker to cut all the vinyl and a coworker is going to do the ironing,” he said. “I’m glad they’re helping me because as the fundraiser got bigger and the requests for masks exponentially grew, it got a lot harder to do on my own.
“I want to help as many people as possible,” Truong continued. “I wish I could eliminate this pandemic, but since that’s not possible, I’m doing everything I can to raise more money and buy more masks. I want those in the frontlines to feel the support, protection and love they deserve.”
Interested in joining the fight for The Battle of the Masks? Visit Andrew Truong’s GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/protect-the-fighters or check out his Instagram page @struongtruong.
— Genevieve Suzuki is a family law attorney and former editor of the La Mesa Courier.