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Local couple has printed more than 1,000 plastic 'ear protectors' for front-line health workers

With COVID-19 creating a slow-down in the real estate market, Joanne Kovich and Jason Sproule have put their down time to good use by running their 3D printers around the clock

For those in the COVID “hot zone” — doctors and nurses on the front lines of patient care and virus testing — masks are a way of life.

But the way they were designed wasn’t meant for 12-hour shifts. When husband and wife (and real estate partners) Joanne Kovich and Jason Sproule saw repeated posts about the masks’ discomfort, they saw an opportunity to donate their time, energy, and the services of their 3D printers.

Known as the J-Team at the Sault’s Century 21, Sproule says the couple went from being extremely busy to just having the odd client. Watching the daily COVID news pour in, Sproule says he and his wife “took a step back and thought about how they could help.”

Coincidentally, they also had a 3D printer kicking around: “I had one for personal tinkering and it was just something to play around with," said Sproule.

Then one day, a friend tagged Sproule in a social media post about “ear protectors” — a small plastic device meant to prevent mask elastics from cutting into the ears of front-line workers. They were simple to make and had a public design available to anyone with a 3D printer.

“My friend asked ‘Hey would you be able to make one of these?’” says Sproule. “And I was like – 'Absolutely.'”

Now with over 50 orders sitting on his desk from places such as Sault Area Hospital and the Davey Home, the couple has two printers running round the clock that produce 14 hooks every two hours. So far, they have distributed over 1,000 of the hooks to front-line workers, personal support workers, and staff in care facilities. And these hooks are not for profit – they are simply donated.

“We have had some small financial contributions here and there,” says Sproule. “I would say they cost about 25 cents on average — and then I’ve also had to replace some printer parts.”

Still, despite paying for the materials themselves, the  pair says they don’t plan on it becoming a business.

“This isn’t about the money,” says Kovich. “It’s our way of helping out. We have the capability and it’s just our way to give back.”

For anyone in the community who would be interested in making a donation or ordering some of the hooks themselves, the couple says to give them a call. You can reach them at: 705-255-1917.