KILLEEN — When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the nation to go into a semi-lockdown, protective equipment such as face masks became very difficult to find.

When one military child noticed that the medical personnel at her family’s clinic were low on face masks themselves, she decided she wanted to do something about it. Using money she had saved for a summer vacation that was cancelled because of the pandemic, 8-year-old Kaylee Pineda bought some material, hopped on her trusty Cricut cutting machine, and with some help from her mother began making face masks.

Kaylee’s brother has special needs and the family often spends a lot of time at appointments and hospitals with him, so taking care of those on the front lines felt natural and right to them, said Kaylee’s mother, Nancy Martinez. Kaylee wanted to do something to help nurses stay safe the way they keep her brother safe.

Now that soldiers on Fort Hood are required to wear a face mask when they are unable to keep proper social distancing measures, Kaylee’s father’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment unit was in need of masks for day-to-day use. Without skipping a beat — and with more material donated by her dad, mom and a few others — the enterprising young lady got right to work and “Kaylee’s Masks” was in business.

The mother-daughter team is making between 40 and 50 masks a day, Martinez said. Since the last week of March, they have made and donated more than 800 masks and have more than 1,500 requests for more.

“I like making a difference. Mom and I work together — she makes one part, and I make the others,” Kaylee said. “I want to say thank you to everyone who is still working out there. They are the real heroes.”

All of the masks they make they donate, and so far have donated to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, the dental clinic on post, the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Temple, McLane Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House in Temple. They have also donated to Mineral Wells’ Police, Fire Department and 911 dispatchers, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s department, Central Texas Correctional Facility, therapists at Kidz Therapeze in Killeen, a hospital in Chicago, pharmacists in Colorado, soldiers across the country, recruiting stations, nursing homes in Mineral Wells and even to soldiers stationed in Kuwait and Germany.

“It’s really nice to be able to help out others during a time of crisis,” Martinez said. “I’m absolutely proud of her that she’s thinking of the safety and well-being of others.”

“I like making a difference,” Kaylee said. “Mom and I work together. She makes one part, and I make the others.”

The face masks have become so popular, Kaylee and her mom had to put a form online to keep up. Those interested in getting a mask, or who would like to make a donation, can go to Kaylee’s Facebook page, facebook.com/KayleesMasks.

With such a high demand for face masks, Kaylee said anyone able to make masks should do it, especially since so many essential workers still need one.

“Making masks is easy — anyone can do it and help,” she said. “We’re Texas strong.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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