Mann Elementary third-grader works wonders

Audrey Lange creates then donates masks to help fight coronavirus.

Horace Mann Elementary School third-grader Audrey Lange is hard at work on her own sewing machine in her Cherry Hill home, fashioning protective masks to help the community fight coronavirus. The Lange family recently moved to the township from Japan, and Audrey’s recollection of how many situations in which the Japanese people needed to wear facial protection, informed her charity work. (Photo Credit: The Lange Family/Special to the Sun)

Audrey Lange, a third grader at Horace Mann Elementary School, is most likely one of the youngest people to help the fight against COVID-19, thanks to her specially made face masks.

“We’ve made 117 masks so far,” Audrey said during a conversation with the Sun on April 16. Asked if that very specific number would be the full amount, she replied, “I want to keep doing as many as I can.” 

Although Lange rightfully gets the credit for her idea and the work involved, it’s a team effort. 

“I sew some parts and Audrey sews some parts. She sewed the pipe cleaners into the hems,” explained Audrey’s mother, Laura. “We’re working very hard here. She does her school work in the morning and then we have time to do this in the afternoon.”

Audrey’s favorite color is purple, so it comes as no surprise that she was gifted with a purple sewing machine when she was all of 6 years old. 

“I actually did not teach her how to sew; my husband was the one who taught her,” Laura said.  “He taught us both to sew, actually.”

The first batch of masks Audrey made was enough to earn her an Eagle Eye Alert and recognition on her school’s Instagram account back on March 30.

A military family, the Langes relocated to Cherry Hill from Tokyo, just before the start of the current school year, after living there for four and a half years. Audrey — who is going through her first American school experience — as well as Laura, can clearly recall Japanese citizens wearing masks in different situations. 

“The Japanese wore masks a lot,” Laura said. “In her school, that was required to handle food, and it was required for people to wear during allergy season — not to prevent the person from getting sick, but to protect others from that person’s own germs.

“When we were first there, Audrey chose a yellow mask for herself, and at first wore it just to wear it for the novelty. But then she realized why it was necessary.”

Audrey said she remembered the Japanese as kind and compassionate, and that helped her remember what kind of things to do to help people who need that compassion now.

“There’s a group in Cherry Hill called Making Masks,’ and it is a point of contact for other facilities which need protective face wear,” Laura revealed. “We do a non-contact pickup for the materials and then a non-contact drop off when the masks are completed.”

Although understandably shy, and still getting familiar with her new surroundings, Audrey nonetheless is off to a great start as far as becoming a future community leader. 

“She’s a very kind and compassionate person,” her mother noted. ”In the past, she’s had birthdays where she asked for pet food to donate to shelters instead of getting her own presents, so she’s always thinking of other people.

“There’s an (actress) Audrey Hepburn quote,” Laura added. “‘As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.’”