Middle school student, Charleston’s Asian American community donate medical supplies

April 14, 2020
Cardiologist Dr. Jeff Winterfield and Buist Academy student Harry Ding bring donated boxes of supplies to the Medical Supply Collection site. Photos by Cindy Abole

At a time where Lowcountry residents continue to prepare and function in a COVID-19 world, individuals are stepping up and reaching out in their communities to support the needs of medical professionals and hospitals in their preparation for the peak of the coronavirus.

It’s the type of response 14-year-old Buist Academy student Harry Ding chose to commit to when the pandemic was erupting in mid-March. 

He was particularly bothered by the growing resentment, negativity and racist attacks targeted to Asians and Asian Americans in connection with the origin of the coronavirus outbreak stemming from Wuhan, China in late 2019. 

“We all have bias,” said Harry. “The recent talk and reactions are generated by online talk. It’s both bizarre and unfair stereotypes that don’t help especially at this stressful time. I want to make a statement that it’s not.”

Buist Academy student Harry Ding shows off a hand-drawn picture from a child recognizing the need of supplies needed by the Lowcountry medical community in treating COVID-19. 
Harry shows a child's illustration of a health care worker getting ready to treat COVID-19 patients.

Harry responded to an email circulated by a Buist Academy classmate’s father, Jeff Winterfield, M.D., a cardiologist at MUSC, who was helping to promote the new Heroes Need Masks program started by colleague Sanford Zeigler, M.D. and other medical professionals and students at MUSC.

Harry and his dad, Wei Ding, an analyst in MUSC’s Biomedical Informatics Center, connected with their family friends and acquaintances who make up some of the Tri-county’s Chinese and Asian American communities to collect needed medical supplies to support frontline hospital staff with the Heroes Need Masks program.

With help of this community, a total of 472 N95 masks, 300 surgical masks, a half-gallon of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, gloves, eye goggles and $4,000 were collected within a four-day period. On March 23, the Dings brought the items down to MUSC’s Heroes Need Masks donation site in North Charleston.

Asked how he felt about helping in this effort, “It’s an indescribable feeling,” said Harry. “It’s a feeling in your heart that says I’m doing something good no matter how small to help in this fight. To me, it’s worth more than any physical or tangible reward.”

With area schools closed in response to the pandemic, Harry’s time has been occupied by classes via distance learning, the Heroes Need Masks supply drive and other projects. 

“If you do what you’re passionate about then it doesn’t become a burden. Helping others is a quality that’s innate in most people. Once you commit to it and share your time and talents —-there’s nothing more that you have to do.”

About the Author

Cindy Abole

Keywords: COVID-19