So far, Darius Brown has created at least 75 masks for medical personnel to wear on the frontlines

By Joelle Goldstein
April 23, 2020 03:30 PM
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Darius Brown has been using his sewing talents to help animals get adopted, but now the 13-year-old is relying on those skills to help humans fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Darius — who is best known for his organization Beaux and Paws, where he dresses shelter animals up in homemade bow ties so they shine while seeking adoption — has recently shifted his production from the pet accessory to masks for health care workers.

The teen announced his new plans in a post on Instagram March 28, explaining that he felt compelled to help after hospitals around the nation started experiencing a shortage on masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Today I am working on creating surgical masks to donate since the hospitals have a shortage on masks,” he wrote beside a photo of himself wearing a mask and working on his sewing machine. “This first one came out great.”

Darius Brown makes face masks
Credit: Courtesy Darius Brown

“Let’s all work together, help out where we can, and especially practice social distancing so we can all get through this pandemic,” Darius added. “In the midst of this storm remember to smile and STAY PAW-SOME!!!!”

Since then, Darius has managed to sew over 75 masks and plans to donate them to medical personnel working at hospitals in New Jersey and New York, according to Better Homes & Gardens.

Though the masks he sews are not medical-grade PPE, such as N95s, frontline workers can still wear them as a supplement, the outlet reported.

Darius Brown bow tie
Darius Brown and a dog with his bow tie
| Credit: Darius Brown Instagram

Darius was diagnosed with comprehension delay, speech delay and fine motor skills delay when he was 2, and over time, his family encouraged his creativity as he developed his love for animals and fashion, according to Today.

His mother, Joy Brown, and older sister, Dazhai Brown-Shearz, noticed a breakthrough for him when he turned 8 while his sister was enrolled in cosmetology school. There, Darius began to cut fabrics and learned to sew to make his sister hair ribbons.

Shortly after, Darius began making his own bow ties and wore one nearly every day. According to the outlet, strangers would stop Darius to ask him where they were sold. It was then that Beaux and Paws came into fruition.

The teen has since donated hundreds of bow ties to animal shelters throughout the country and launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to obtain more fabric and materials so he can provide even more to dogs and cats who are looking for a home.

The young entrepreneur was even acknowledged by former President Barack Obama, who in March 2018 sent Darius a letter praising him for his work and commitment to community service.

Darius’ mask efforts started just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that as many as 25 percent of people infected with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic, meaning they never show symptoms.

Because of this, the federal health agency advised that all Americans wear cloth face coverings when out in public, aside from children under the age of 2, or “anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance,” to help slow the spread of the virus.

The CDC also stressed in its announcement that it is not encouraging the public to use surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as they should be reserved for medical professionals only.

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As Darius continues to make masks for frontline workers, the teen also disclosed on Instagram that he plans on visiting animal shelters over the summer if the coronavirus pandemic passes.

“I felt so bad because I was supposed to visit 6 animal shelters in 3 states this week during my spring break (PAW-SOME Mission) but because of the pandemic everything is postponed until the summer hopefully if this is all over,” he wrote.

Still, he said: “I’m happy that I’m able to use my skills to help those on the front line.”

As of Thursday, there have been at least 852,253 cases and 43,587 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.