For The Madera Tribune
Halle Freitas uses her 3-D printer to make ear savers for first responders. Freitas says she’s happy to know her efforts are helping to make a difference in the community.
When Christmas rolled around a few months ago, Halle Freitas wanted a 3-D printer and she received it.
Now, she is putting her printer to good use, providing helpful tools to first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I noticed that a lot of people were low on resources and not enough people were helping,” said the 15-year-old Chowchilla Union High School sophomore. “My mom told me about the ear savers and the 3-D printer so that’s how it got started. It’s been going good and I’ve been happy doing it and making other people happy.”
Since then, she’s made thousands of ear savers for first responders. Ear savers are a piece that goes behind the ears and connects the elastic so it goes around the head, thus saving the ears from blisters or scrapes. Freitas has also printed more than 100 visors, which she combines with plastic sheets used for overhead projects to help protect those on the front line.
“My printer has not stopped,” she said. “I am happy to know people need it and it’s actually helping to make a difference.”
Freitas and her mother, Kathy, were both experiencing downtime when Kathy received a Facebook post about someone else using their 3-D printer to make ear savers.
“We wanted to give back to society, but didn’t know how,” she said. “A friend of ours had tagged me on a Facebook post about a little boy out of Canada from the Boy Scouts that was creating these ear savers for the medical public on his 3-D printer. We thought, ‘what a great idea!” The lady added a file, but we couldn’t get it to work. We found another one that was better for us. Halle started making them immediately. We started ordering supplies and upgrading her printer to be more efficient. We’ve sent out thousands and hundreds of the visors. She has been non stop on that machine, printing away.”
Halle recently made a donation to Madera Community Hospital.
“I gave them 15-20 visors and a hundred ear savers,” she said. “They said they wanted us to give to the other hospitals before we come back to them.”
Halle isn’t charging anything for the ear savers; rather she is donating them to people on the front line who really need them.
“We’ve given it to grocery stores, like where my brother works,” she said. “We’ve given it to clinics, vets, pharmacies. We’re still going to more hospitals like Valley Children’s Clovis Community and St. Agnes. We’re donating them to any first responders.”
Kathy, along with her skin spa business Jovem Spa, has long given back to the community and saw this as an opportunity for both her and her daughter.
“I adopt a family every year for Christmas through my business,” she said. “My friend knows that I’m very proactive in the giving part of the community. I think she knew with our 3-D printer and cause, it was a good suit for us.”
Halle is the one that works the printer most of the day, but Kathy has her jobs, as well.
“I’m the one that levels the bed,” Kathy said. “Every so many prints, the level gets off. Sometimes she falls asleep so I keep the printer going for her. It’s going all day, from first thing in the morning to about 1 a.m. She dove right in, pulled the files and started to do everything herself.”
“It helps pass the time, but I go to sleep with that thing going on,” Halle said.
Since she started working with her 3-D printer, Halle has sent out ear savers around the world, including Portugal.
“People from all over the world have reached out to us,” Kathy said. “They said they have blisters on their ears or their ears are bleeding. Another thing we’ve noticed with these ear savers is a lot of the homemade masks don’t fit people. The ear savers has several hooks on it so it allows people to create a tighter mask.”
It takes an hour to print a sheet of five ear savers. It takes an hour-and-a-half to print the holder for the visors.
“We ordered several hundred dollars worth of filament so we have good supply,” Kathy said. “A majority of our cost is shipping. Upgrading the bed was a good cost.”
Recently, a client of Kathy’s found out about what Halle is doing and offered the use of two of her 3-D printers. Now, Halle will have three 3-D printers going to work.
“We’ll have more 3-D printers and we’ll have more going,” Halle said.
Giving is nothing new to Halle, who is also very involved in the Chowchilla FFA.
“I’m a person that likes to see people smile and make people smile,” she said. “So, I’m usually dorky.”
“We’re very proud of our children,” Kathy said. “They have been very good. My son works at Save Mart so he’s on the front lines every day. People are rude to him, but he comes home every day with a smile.”
While some of her classmates may be binge watching or creating TikTok videos, Halle Freitas has found something meaningful to help pass the time.
“I know a lot of people in my class that are very lazy,” she said. “I finished most of my schoolwork and now I’m printing. I’m doing something and not sitting around doing nothing.”
Those who would like to donate to help purchase more filament or to help with the shipping can contact Kathy Freitas on Facebook through her company’s page, Jovem Spa.
“I get a lot of private messages,” Freitas said. “We’re doing everything through my accounts because I don’t want my 15-year-old to have that kind of access. We use my accounts and we post it to my Facebook page. People have been reaching out through that page. They send us thank you notes and it’s been an amazing feeling.”