Conquer COVID-19 is a grassroots, volunteer-driven organization created to help frontline health care workers get access to personal protective equipment (PPE) — such as respirators, surgical masks, procedural gloves, and gowns — amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The basic premise behind the organization is to collect unused PPE from those with spare inventory on hand and donate it to those who need it urgently.
Conquer COVID-19 was started by a handful of people on March 19, 2020, and very quickly expanded to more than 100 volunteers from all walks of life including doctors, lawyers, medical students, and business leaders. Volunteers lend their expertise across several areas, including operations, marketing and public relations, partnerships, logistics and distribution, procurement, medical affairs, government and community relations, and regional programs.
The team brainstormed unconventional approaches to solving the challenge of PPE shortages. One idea that took hold was to use two-way baby monitors to support hospital staff while limiting exposure to the virus and minimizing the use of PPE. Another idea was to host PPE drives, which have since taken place in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Ottawa.
The team at Conquer COVID-19 gratefully acknowledges and appreciates the support of all volunteers, donors, and corporate partners that have stepped up to support the organization and its efforts to get PPE to those who urgently need it.
This small but mighty group has garnered the support of several major corporations, including Volvo Cars Canada, which provides vehicles that volunteers use to pick up and deliver donated PPE; and XYZ Storage, where PPE drives were hosted in Toronto and donated items stored prior to being distributed.
Just two weeks in, Conquer COVID-19 teamed up with Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser (who is in her fourth year of medical school) and actor Ryan Reynolds — and both have been instrumental in amplifying the voice of the organization. Through this increased awareness, Conquer COVID-19 received a $1 million donation from Fiona McKean and Tobi Lütke (Founder and CEO of Shopify) through the couple’s Thistledown Foundation. The organization also began selling what Ryan Reynolds dubbed the “world’s most boring t-shirt.” To date, just over $1.9 million in donations has been processed on behalf of Conquer COVID-19 through IDRF, a 35-year old charity headquartered in Canada, with all proceeds being allocated to the purchase of PPE for donation.
Through its PPE drives as well as the generous donations and support provided by corporations such as Toys “R” Us, VTech, Canadian Tire, Conros, GFL Environmental, Spin Master, Klick Health, TADA, Best Buy, Proctor & Gamble, Purolator, and others, Conquer COVID-19 has collected and distributed hundreds of thousands of items. This includes PPE such as surgical masks, respirators, face shields, procedural gloves, and gowns, as well as baby monitors and tablets (such as Samsung and iPad products); as well as other items needed by shelters, including diapers, formula, and feminine hygiene products.
The organization has distributed PPE to 180 sites (ranging from hospitals, community clinics, long term care facilities, doctor’s offices, homes for people with special needs, shelters, and more) in 54 towns and cities across five provinces. Thanks to the generous support of Bombardier, PPE was also flown on a Bombardier Global 6500 business jet from Downsview to Halifax, NS, for deployment to frontline workers in memory of Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien — two nurses with the Victorian Order of Nurses — and others who tragically lost their lives.
The team at Conquer COVID-19 gratefully acknowledges and appreciates the support of all volunteers, donors, and corporate partners that have stepped up to support the organization and its efforts to get PPE to those who urgently need it. And on behalf of all Canadians, Conquer COVID-19 extends its utmost gratitude to the unsung heroes of the battle against COVID-19 — Canada’s frontline health care workers.