KINGSTON – All day, every day, University of Rhode Island junior Alison Hornung sits surrounded by vibrant fabric, which she then sews into stylized cloth face masks to be sold nationwide in benefit of a worthy cause. Hornung is donating all the proceeds from the sale of her face masks to Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) hospitals, which treat children and infants around the country afflicted with various illnesses or suffering from other injuries.
“Every day, all day, I’m sitting making masks to keep up with the overwhelming amount of support this venture has received,” said Hornung. “It’s really calming for me, I can’t explain it. But I like doing it.”
Using 100 percent cotton and following Centers for Disease Control guidelines on facial mask creation, Hornung purchases fabric, coming in a variety of colorful patterns, including some Lilly Pulitzer-inspired designs, from local small businesses to create the double-layered cloth face coverings. The URI junior then sells her creations for a small amount and donates 100 percent of the proceeds to CMN hospitals, such as Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, through the Miss America Foundation, as Hornung is a candidate for Miss Rhode Island this year. Not wanting to leave anyone forgotten in her charitable venture, Hornung also donates some of the masks she creates to healthcare workers and families with immune-compromised children.
“I do all the sewing myself, and my mom helps me with the elastics,” she said. “This has been an unexpected amount of support, so I’ve had my parents downstairs cutting elastics and putting them onto the masks.”
Hornung’s current effort is in honor of her late best friend, who died of pediatric leukemia in August of last year after being diagnosed at age 11. The two met after Hornung became involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society when she was 17, an involvement which saw her travel to Washington, DC twice to advocate for childhood cancer patients in front of Congress.
“My best friend had leukemia and she was my model for everything,” said Hornung. “I was just thinking what can I do to make more money for this cause? She was at Hasbro Children’s Hospital all the time, which is a Children’s Miracle Network hospital, and most of the childhood cancer survivors and fighters that I meet all the time have been at Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. The fact that they have not only childhood cancer survivors, but they help anyone, was always something I was really passionate about.”
“I know she would want me to help all different kinds of people,” Hornung continued. “Children’s Miracle Network hospitals help childhood cancer patients, but they also help babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, they help children who have been in car accidents. It’s a whole lot of different people and obviously, going through the Miss Rhode Island Foundation is something I wanted to do, because my social impact initiative is procuring funding for pediatric cancer.”
Miss America’s national foundation is CMN, a connection that inspired Hornung to undertake the task even more.
“I figured this was perfect for me,” she said. “The reason I started doing pageants was to promote childhood cancer awareness and what better way to do that than an organization that supports that so strongly.”
To date, Hornung has donated 150 masks to the Team Lilly Foundation, a 501©3 nonprofit organization working to assist families battling childhood cancer, and frontline workers. Hornung has also sold over 500 of her mask creations. While her work has received a strong response, Hornung wants to keep the venture rooted in her passion for helping others at this time.
“People are pitching all these different things to me, saying I should do this or do that or create a website,” she said. “But being in the world of childhood cancer, and seeing how this is an every-day thing in these kids’ lives, I don’t want my part of it to promote masks as a fashion statement. People seem to want my masks because they’re cute and pretty, but I don’t want this to become a commodity. At the end of the day, this is about public safety and benefiting childhood cancer survivors. It’s about keeping everyone safe. That’s why I don’t charge a lot because I feel like it’s not something that people should necessarily be trying to profit off of.”
“I understand that some small businesses have had to try to adapt and start selling masks to get some income, but some designers are selling face masks for $50-$150 and my thoughts are that this is not a fashion trend,” Hornung added. “People need face masks, and I think that’s taking advantage. People say I undercharge for the masks. They forget I’m not making a profit off of them.”
Masks are $7 each, or $5 each with the purchase of three or more. Lilly Pulitzer-inspired designs are $12 each. To purchase a face mask from Hornung, contact her on Facebook, Ali Hornung, on Instagram @alisontaylormusic or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hornung is a 20-year-old junior at URI triple majoring in German, global business and human development and family studies.