Suburban Hero: Arlington Heights boy making much-needed personal protection equipment
Instead of spending his stay-at-home time during the pandemic playing video games or goofing off online with his friends, 12-year-old Vince Radlicz jumped to action by making personal protection equipment for health care workers.
Using two 3D printers, Vince created 341 headbands for face shields this spring as cases of COVID-19 climbed. With assistance from his family, he then attached the bands to plastic cut from report covers purchased at office supply stores to complete the shields.
The equipment was delivered to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities in the Chicago area and as far away as Hawaii.
Vince said he was inspired by a desperate request for equipment from a neighbor who works as a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago.
"We started printing right away that day," he said.
Vince shut down production in late May as the COVID-19 infection curve flattened in Illinois and the need for homemade gear dissipated.
But he's getting started again now, fulfilling an order for 100 shields from the Mount Prospect-based Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization.
Staffers will use the shields with students who need to see mouths to understand what's being said, said Julie Jilek, the agency's assistant superintendent. Additionally, some students may not be able to wear fabric masks because of medical issues, she said.
"We are thrilled to be able to partner with Vince Radlicz for this purpose and truly appreciate his efforts," Jilek said.
The son of Arlington Heights Memorial Public Library digital services adviser Donna Radlicz, Vince uses his 3D printer and one borrowed from the library to make the headbands. He's also printed hooks to support the ear loops on health care workers' masks and prevent painful rubbing.
The Arlington Heights library was among several suburban libraries that lent 3D printers to staff members seeking to make protective equipment during the pandemic.
Others included Lincolnshire's Vernon Area Public Library, Elgin's Gail Borden Public Library and the Naperville Public Library.
Donna Radlicz said she's incredibly proud of her son.
"He really wants to help people," she said.
Vince, an incoming seventh-grader at South Middle School, is modest about the undertaking.
"The printer does most of the work," he said. "I'm grateful that we have the supplies to help everyone."
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