Olympian and Cancer Survivor Maia Shibutani Is Helping Health Care Workers During Coronavirus Crisis

Maia Shibutani was hospitalized in December to get a cancerous tumor removed

Maia Shibutani
Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Maia Shibutani and her brother Alex are raising money for health care workers to have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to properly battle the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Olympic figure skating duo launched a GoFundMe charity page this week, each donating $1,000 to kick off the campaign.

On Friday, the campaign had raised $12,112 of a $15,000, surpassing the initial goal of $10,000 set on Wednesday.

The money is going towards GetUsPPE, an organization founded by physicians to provide enough PPE for health care workers across the nation. Equipment in short supply includes N95 respirators, surgical masks, protective goggles, gloves, face shields, coveralls, gowns, booties, and wipes.

Maia — who had a cancerous tumor removed in December — shared on Instagram that both she and Alex “are self-isolating and practicing social distancing,” but that they wanted to do something more to protect those on the front lines.

“These two things are very important, but beyond admiration and appreciation, we believe that healthcare workers need our help so that they can keep themselves, their families, and their patients safe,” she wrote.

In March, Maia shared how her own experience in the hospital changed her perspective on life.

“On December 10th, I found out I had a tumor on my right kidney. It was scary, shocking, devastating, and overwhelming,” she wrote, accompanying a throwback photo of the two siblings. “Since receiving that life-altering news, there hasn’t been a day that Alex and I haven’t said or messaged each other three simple words.”

“This change in how we communicate is one of the things I’m most grateful for,” she added. “Life is unpredictable, but I think that treasuring and acknowledging the people you care about is a huge part of what makes life so special. Don’t wait to tell the people you love how you feel.”

The Olympian had her tumor removed in December, writing on Instagram at the time, “I am beyond thankful that it was detected early and that my surgery went well.”

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She has since been recovering from the surgery, sharing updates with her fans on social media. She has also been encouraging her followers to remain at home during the ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this week, Alex also shared the importance of following social distancing guidelines.

“Thank you to the world’s healthcare workers… our champions and heroes,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “We are one team, united against a common enemy. Stay home, spread hope, share facts, and show compassion to others.”

Maia and Alex are fondly known as the “ShibSibs,” and took home a bronze medal in 2018’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in addition to helping Team USA clinch the third-medal spot with a paired free dance.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani
Maia and Alex Shibutani. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Last week, Maia shared her thoughts on the 2020 Summer Olympics getting postponed due to COVID-19.

“This unforeseen period of uncertainty has been an unprecedented challenge, but I’m glad that everyone’s health and safety is being prioritized,” she wrote. “The Games are about many things, but among them are the pursuit of excellence and the power of the human spirit.”

The Olympian added, “the grit and resilience all the athletes will show leading up to and during the Olympics will inspire us all. I have hope that we will make it through this and the world will come together again for Tokyo 2020 (in 2021). It will be a spectacular celebration.”

As of Friday, there are at least 272,502 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 7,046 deaths related to the contagious respiratory virus.

As Maia has had cancer she needs to be extra careful during the pandemic.

According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer survivors are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus as “types of cancer and treatments such as chemotherapy can weaken your immune system and may increase your risk of any infection, including with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”

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. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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