WESTFIELD – With the NCAA spring sports seasons KO’d by the COVID-19 pandemic, Westfield State junior softball outfielder Sarah Meunier (Deerfield, Mass./Frontier) has repurposed her time in a positive way – making cloth face masks for family, friends and others who wish to wear them to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“The masks I am making are not N-95 masks, which are preferred by healthcare workers,” said Meunier. “N-95 masks can’t be made at home, but the ones I am making are a good alternative when the N-95 masks are not available.”
The CDC recently released recommendations on their website that the ‘CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.’
Majoring in movement science with a health science double-major, Meunier plans to attend a physician’s assistant program after completing her undergraduate degree.
“My grandmother volunteers at the hospital, that’s probably how it started,” said Meunier of her interest in the healthcare field.
“I’m taking ‘Medical Ethics’ as a class right now with professor Sladyk, and we all needed to come up with projects that we could do ourselves, and I asked her about the masks and she approved of it,” said Meunier.
“I’m really re-learning to sew again in the process. I used to do it more when I was younger. The first few masks took a few tries. I had worked on some comfort quilts with my grandmother in the past.”
“I don’t really have a goal on how many I’ll make,” said Meunier, who said she’s probably made 100 so far, and is now starting to make smaller sizes for children.
“We had a team Zoom meeting, and she was cutting out fabric while we talked,” said Westfield State softball coach Colleen Bannister. “It’s just another way she can give of herself,” noting that Meunier gave several of the masks to Bannister for her elderly parents to use.
“Sarah loves community service and understands that it feels good to give. Anything that our team does with community service, she’s in giving 100 percent,” said Bannister.
Meunier volunteers at Baystate Franklin Hospital when she is at home in Deerfield, Mass., and at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield while she’s at school. She’s filled a variety of roles at the two hospitals, but said her favorite is that of ‘baby cuddler’ at Franklin, helping monitor some of the newborn babies.
While Westfield State has moved all classes to on-line and alternative delivery for the spring, Meunier said she is handling the break from campus, and the social distancing directives well. “It’s good. I’m very schedule oriented, I manage my time pretty well, and take pride in doing that. The time that I’m not spending studying I’m using to make masks, work out and practice.”
“She loves making things happen behind the scenes,” said Bannister. “She really inspired more teammates to work out before preseason so that the team came into the year in better shape this year.”
As a softball player, “Sarah just kept working and working, and her swing was so natural, we had to find a place in the field for her to play,” said Bannister. We knew she wasn’t going to be a shortstop for us, but we needed to reward her hard work with playing time, and she really worked at playing left field.”
Meunier hit .333 with two home runs, five doubles, and 18 rbi as a sophomore in 2019. She stood out in conference play where she batted .471 with five doubles and 15 rbi in 13 league contests before being named second-team all-Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Meunier says she misses the routine of playing softball “a lot. It’s hard going from playing every day in the spring to not at all. It’s a beautiful day outside today and I’d expect to be outside for softball. It was sad coming home from Florida,” as the Owls’ annual spring 10-game trip was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m lucky that around my home there are some good loops for walking and running, and some trails for hiking. I have a bow net and brought my bat home, so I have been able to work on hitting a little, and my sister used to play softball so she will throw with me.”
Meunier said that Westfield State’s physician’s assistant program will be her first choice. She plans to pursue a gap year after graduation to work in the medical field to accumulate the working hours necessary for admission to the program. She hopes to start working as a CNA this summer.
“I just want to work to contribute, I want to help be there for people,” said Meunier. “I don’t like to stand by watching.” – Courtesy of Westfield State University Sports