How a Hamilton effort collected donations of thousands of pieces of personal protective gear

The team at McMaster University has received more than 13,000 items such as masks, gloves, surgical gowns, face shields and shoe covers.

The success has other cities reaching out to find out how to copy the model used here

Face masks are also in short supply. (Submitted by Kyle Saikaley)

What do a tattoo parlour, a hair removal business, an autopsy unit and a Chinese battery company have in common? In this case, a desire to help Hamilton's frontline healthcare workers protect themselves from COVID-19 by donating their supplies of gloves, masks and gowns.

Kyle Saikaley, a local emergency medicine resident, told CBC News ever since his urgent plea to the public to donate unused personal protective equipment to Hamilton hospitals about a week ago, his team has received more than 13,000 items such as masks, gloves, surgical gowns, face shields and shoe covers.

"My understanding is we may have been one of the first to put the word out calling for donations," he said.

Kyle Saikaley said ever since sharing his story with CBC News on March 19, he has received thousands of items that can help keep frontline health workers safe amid COVID-19. (Submitted by Kyle Saikaley)

Now he and his expanded team at McMaster University are dealing with boxes upon boxes of supplies and plan to help others.

Most have come from within Hamilton and many have come from unique places.

YiYan Cai, is a one of the donors who helped fundraise more than $10,000 to buy supplies for Hamilton's healthcare workers. (Submitted by Kyle Saikaley)

Sleepy Bones Tattoo in Hamilton was able to donate hundreds of gloves despite just opening in February and being forced to close because of the novel coronavirus.

The Chinese communities in Mississauga and Oakville also pooled together $10,000 to send supplies Saikaley's way.

The donations in Hamilton have spurred more movements across Canada. (Submitted by Kyle Saikaley)

The rally for more supplies has also turned the Hamilton team into an inspiration for others. 

After interest from other cities, Saikaley shared his approach leading to teams launching in many other provinces.

He hopes more people will donate.

"I'm grateful to see our community come together quickly," Saikaley said, who has been leading the charge while in self-isolation.

"It didn't happen over weeks or months, it happened in days."


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.