Mint Hill, NC – When 11-year-old Eli Crouch received a 3D printer for Christmas from his grandparents, he started printing things you might imagine a fifth grader would be interested in Yoda, Statue of Liberty figurines, and a Pokemon for his sister.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, the Bain Elementary fifth-grader started to wonder if there was a way he could use his new hobby to help. “My mom saw something about people using their 3D printers to make medical supplies,” says Eli, “so I went on the internet to see what I would be able to print that might be helpful.”
Eli found a template for “Ear Savers,” an alternative to securing a face mask around one’s ears. The small, plastic apparatus has different “slots” to offer an individualized fit. Anyone can use it, but it works best over a ponytail or bun and is easily cleaned with soap and water or disinfecting wipes.
“When you have to wear a face mask all day long it can really start to irritate the backs of your ears,” says Eli. “Everyone is having to wear face masks right now, and a lot of people have to wear them all day long. I just thought that maybe I could make something that would make their days a little less painful.”
After a trial run, Eli’s mom posted a photo of the product on her own Facebook page as well as the What’s Up Mint Hill page. The response was immediate and overwhelming. With six spools of filament he received for his birthday, Eli embarked on a massive production line and even modified the original template to fit five face mask holders on the printer bed at once.
“His printer has been running most of the day, every day since he made his first strap holder,” says Heidi. “Eli has given out over 150 strap holders to date, free of charge. I would say that 95% of the people who have ordered have been members of the medical profession.”
One of the recipients is David Kennedy, who was truly moved by Eli’s kindness and generosity. “I thought it showed tremendous compassion, especially for those serving in the medical field to help make their day a little more comfortable,” said Kennedy, who gave the mask clips to his stepdaughter, a nurse at Atrium Monroe. “She loves them. Everybody’s struggling now,” he continues. “All you hear is negativity. I thought this sent such a positive message.”
Eli is thrilled to be making a real difference in a difficult time. “The response was amazing and the comments were very uplifting and made him even more excited to be able to help,” says his mom. “He has even had people come back and ask for more! That is how we know they really are helping.”
Eli prints the face mask clips, packages them up and puts them out for pickup. He coordinates with his mom to let the person know that their order is ready. If anyone would like Eli’s Ear Savers, they can reach out to Heidi Crouch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.