Badger Sport mask

A local company is working to help protect people during the coronavirus outbreak — and giving a boost to first responders in the process.

They do in an effort to help slow the spread — and to offer help to everyone wanting to fight the outbreak.

Founder Sport Group, which includes Badger Sport in Statesville, is transitioning its production and making masks out of its athletic fitness products. While these are not medically approved masks, they do follow the criteria and specifications outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The benefit is two-fold: First, residents can wear a protective mask during outdoor activities, or grocery shopping, that helps protect them. Second, these residents are no longer buying the N95 masks that are needed by healthcare workers and that have been in short supply.

And there’s an added bonus — the proceeds from the sales will go to the nonprofit All Clear Foundation.

“We are hopeful that the performance activity mask will provide concerned citizens some peace of mind, while allowing medically-approved N95 masks to go to front-line personnel,” Founder Sports Group CEO John Anton stated in a news release.

In addition to the masks, Founder is selling T-shirts honoring the work of first responders to also benefit the foundation.

Like many others, the company wanted to find a way to reach out and help others. Normally a manufacturer of uniforms and shirts for teams, they looked at what they had — and made an immediate change.

“In this crisis, our employees, our owners, our dealers are all looking for things that we can do to help,” said Russ Neale, senior vice president of marketing, in a phone interview Wednesday.

So they partnered with the nonprofit All Clear Foundation, which is “dedicated to improving life expectancy and well-being of first responders”, Neale said, in order to bring new products “that we hope can provide some assistance.”

Now at the plant in Statesville, and one in Nicaragua, the company is using the skills of its employees in combination with its manufacturing capabilities to make the new performance activity masks.

These are “designed for individuals who must make potential outings to the grocery store,” Neale said, leaving those certified N95 masks for “those first responders and medical personnel who so desperately need them.”

The masks are crafted based on the guidance of the CDC for alternatives to the medically approved ones.

“We are truly trying to be absolutely responsible as we can be and provide the help that we can in this crisis,” Neale said.

The T-shirts, emblazoned with the message that “The best defense is a good offense” are designed to remind people that “the best thing most of us can do is kind of hunker down, stay home, stay safe, wash our hands and follow the guidance of CDC best practices.”

All the proceeds from both of these products will go to the foundation.

In Statesville, the employees will be sewing the masks out of fabric that the company currently has on hand.

Neale describes this move as a short-terms plan to help with the outbreak and says the company is also looking at longer-range ideas. He says that everyone wants to fight the coronavirus outbreak — and now his company is trying to do its part.

“Like all of us, I think, we’re looking around at each other going, OK what can we do? And that is part of it as well. We have sewers and screen printers that want to help and want to be taking an action,” he said.