While many high school seniors are solely focused on finishing their final year of school and getting ready for their post-graduation lives, Mikaela Fischer is doing that on top of running two different donation projects for both humans and animals in need. In March, the 17-year-old Parker, Colo.-native started the project Masks for Hope, which collects fabric and elastic donations for Mikaela to use to sew reusable masks for populations vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the project began, she has donated over 6,000 masks to hospitals, the Navy, Native American reservations, and senior living centers, in 28 different states. With the help of her mother, Mikaela works on the project for hours everyday and makes anywhere from 200-300 masks each week.
In addition, Mikaela also runs Toys & Treats for Homeless Pets, a project which collects toys, beds, food, leashes, collars, and other items for animals living in shelters. Inspired by animals from shelters that her own family has taken care of, Mikaela began the project right before the pandemic hit. So far, she has donated about 200 items each to nine different animal shelters. Mikaela intends to continue both projects for as long as there is a need.
Describe your volunteer role with Masks for Hope.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we started to realize there was a huge shortage of masks, especially in places that really needed them like hospitals and senior living centers. I decided to start this project called Masks for Hope in which we collected donations of fabric and elastic from our neighbors and different corporations, and we started making reusable masks that people could wash to use. We started donating them to hospitals, the Navy, Native American reservations and senior living centers.
What strives you to make such a big commitment to this project everyday while you’re also attending school?
I would say honestly those donations that I get in person have been keeping me committed to making the masks. We receive a lot of thank you letters from people saying how grateful they are that there is still someone who is keeping in mind those people in need. It is difficult. We all have our own lives, and it is one of those things that it’s really hard to continue with our own lives and still keep those people who are in need in mind. But I would say it is definitely the reactions and the gratefulness of the people who we have donated to that keep me committed to making the masks.
What has it been like being able to work on this project with your mom?
It’s been an amazing experience. It’s definitely been very humbling to see the whole community come together, especially when people are in need. I think one of the good things that’s come out of this pandemic has been the community coming together to help those who need it and those who don’t have the ability to make and sell masks themselves.
Describe your volunteer role with Toys & Treats for Homeless Pets.
I started that and was actually getting it up and running right before the pandemic started. The main places we were collecting donations were in coffee shops and restaurants and hair salons, and then once those started to shut down in the beginning of pandemic, we realized we needed to put that on hold. We started picking that up again once everything began reopening. We’ve collected toys, dog beds, dog food, leashes, collars, and stuff like that. We’ve donated them to a lot of animal shelters who collect donations, because that’s the only way they can really get the stuff that the dogs need.
What inspired you to start that project?
When I was little, we took care of a couple of animals we got from the animal shelter. I guess I never realized the extent to which how many animals don’t have homes and how many don’t live happy lives with owners. It was a project I wanted to start because I finally started to see they can’t do things to help themselves, so I see it as our job to help them get better lives.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
One thing I’ve learned that I would want to share is being a citizen and being a community member doesn’t take having a role in politics, and it doesn’t take even being an adult for that matter — because I’m not, I’m still 17. I think a lot of people think because they’re not old enough, or they don’t have a big enough role in the community, that they can’t make a difference, which I thought before. I thought there’s no way I could make a big impact being how young I am, but that’s one thing I’ve definitely learned — you can make an impact and you can help people no matter what age or role you have in the community.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I think it is important because we’re all put in this world. If we don’t do things to help, if we all live our own lives in our own bubbles and live for ourselves, then there’s nothing humbling about that, in my opinion. I love helping people. I love doing what I can and giving back because I’m blessed with the life I’ve been given, and not many other people are. I think that’s a big thing, is realizing how great of lives some of us are given and other people don’t necessarily have those amazing lives or see how amazing life can be, so I think it’s really important that those who can, do their part to give back.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Mikaela? Find local volunteer opportunities.