Wichita State's Caitlin Bingham

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Wichita State’s Bingham Pitches In By Sewing Masks

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Caitlin Bingham always admired the sewing skills of her family members. But the Wichita State junior pitcher never had the time or inspiration to tackle any big projects with them.

The coronavirus pandemic has given her both.

Back home in Tecumseh, Oklahoma since the softball season was canceled, Bingham has been making protective masks to donate to medical personnel and others in need.

She’s distributed nearly 100 masks since she started sewing three weeks ago, making five to 10 masks per day when she’s not doing online school work as a biomedical engineer with a minor in chemistry.

“I have always liked helping people and this is kind of an outlet for that,” Bingham said. “As a softball player, you get to play in front of all these people and inspire young softball players. This is kind of a different way to inspire people, so that is kind of motivating because you are helping somebody, especially in a crisis situation we are in right now.”

Bingham was moved to action by a Facebook post from her mother’s friend, a pediatrician in California asking for masks.

“She was crying out for help. She had basically worn the same mask for weeks now,” Bingham said. “My mom came home with the supplies one day and said, ‘We are making masks,’ and I said, ‘OK.'”

Bingham’s mom, Lauren, and her grandmother, Iva Bingham, have joined forces in the mask making. Her dad’s side of the family lives on a big piece of land and have been staying in their homes to practice good social distancing. 

Her grandmother cuts the templates, and Bingham and her mom switch back and forth making masks on the same sewing machine, “because you can only do it so many times before your back and neck ache and you have stabbed yourself with a pin so many times that your fingers hurt,” according to Bingham. 

Each mask has four layers of cotton and a pocket for a filter. The Binghams were getting the fabric from a local store, but are now cleaning out her grandmother’s supply in a closet since most stores have been closed.

Craft projects have been a staple in the Bingham family, including a grandmother who made Bingham’s dress for her junior prom in high school.

“Everybody in my life has always sewn, so I have always been around it,” Bingham said. “Softball kind of doesn’t leave you time to do any extracurriculars, so I never really picked it up or got interested in it because softball was my sole focus. But now I have time and there is a need.”

 

Bingham has shipped masks to medical personnel in California and is planning to make more to give to local hospitals in her county.

She recently sent 40 masks to foster care families in Texas, a connection facilitated by the mother of Wichita State teammate, Wylie Glover.

Sheli Glover has worked at EmberHope Youthville for nearly 25 years. The nonprofit helps at-risk children and families in Kansas and Texas through foster care, adoption, counseling and residential programs.

EmberHope has been trying to provide masks to their foster families to help decrease their anxiety levels, including some parents caring for medically-fragile babies.

When Glover found out during a staff meeting that EmberHope was having trouble finding masks, she reached out to Bingham to see if she could help.

“I asked her how much she was selling them for and of course Caitlin said, ‘nothing,’” said Glover, the Director of Recruitment and Admissions at EmberHope. “She agreed to make 40 masks for us for our Texas foster homes, and is currently working on a list for our foster parents in Kansas. We really can’t thank her enough. It’s such a big help for our families.”

Glover’s daughter, a junior outfielder for the Shockers, has been giving back in her own way during the pandemic. Wylie has been organizing the pick-up and delivery of games, puzzles and crafts to keep 48 girls in an EmberHope residential facility occupied during the stay-at-home orders. 

“We went through all the guidelines for her to follow so she could do this,” Sheli Glover said. “I know the younger generation sometimes tends to think it won’t happen to them, but she is very responsible and has listened to what her dad and I have asked her to do to stay safe.”

Bingham’s interest in the global health pandemic goes beyond just making masks. Her organic chemistry class has been using the current event as a teaching tool.

Bingham has always wanted to work in the medical field, with a particular interest in cancer research.

“My sister had a girl in her class that had brain cancer when she was really little and there was basically nothing they could do for her. That kind of irritates me in a way, especially because the girl was like 7 years old,” Bingham said. “I want to find a way to help those kids and families. That is my motivation behind it.”

Bingham plans to make as many masks as possible until they are no longer needed. She is already backed up from so many requests. 

Although she wants to be on the softball field again with her Wichita State teammates, Bingham understands why it’s not possible. Sewing has helped alleviate some of the stress from the pandemic and given her a bigger mission.

“It’s kind of therapeutic to be doing this,” Bingham said. “There are people struggling that need help, and I am just glad I can contribute in some way.”

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