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The Burton snowboard company is donating 500,000 respirator masks to hospitals across the Northeast, harnessing the company’s worldwide footprint to help put a dent in the country’s lagging stockpile of personal protective equipment for the coronavirus pandemic.
Donna Burton Carpenter said her company’s largest binding manufacturer, Fudakin in China, directed her to a nearby factory that was making FDA-approved KN95 respirator masks. The price of masks were increasing almost by the hour as competing bidders sought to increase their supplies.
She ended up paying about $1.25 per mask — more than double what they usually cost — then set about finding a way to ship them directly from China to Vermont, where Burton is headquartered.
The first 48,000 masks have been delivered and are earmarked for hospitals across Vermont and for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, where Burton Carpenter’s late husband, Jake, spent two months in 2015 while fighting a rare nerve disorder. The rest of the masks are scheduled to arrive within the next two weeks and will be distributed along the East Coast; at least half will go to particularly hard-hit areas of New York and Boston.
“It’s absolutely insane that a snowboard company has to do this because we’re the ones who have the relationships in China,” Burton Carpenter said. “But it’s something we’re more than glad to be doing.”
The government’s Health and Human Services Department recently surveyed 323 hospitals around the country and they reported widespread shortages of personal protective equipment and uncertainty about their availability from federal and state sources.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott called the Burton donation “a prime example of how Vermonters are rising to the occasion and uniting around a common purpose during these unprecedented times.”
Burton Carpenter said she’s using her own funds for the masks. Like so many companies across so many industries, Burton is suffering. The company has been forced to lay off about 250 of its 1,000 or so employees worldwide, and everyone making more than $60,000 a year has taken a pay cut.
Over the years, Burton has shouldered its share of criticism for moving production of some of its products overseas. The company has responded by saying that in many cases — for instance, the case of bindings and some outerwear — it has virtually no options in the United States.
“The world is globalized, period,” Burton Carpenter said. “We can’t go back. That’s one thing I hope comes out of this, is embracing globalization. It may have spread the virus, but it’s also going to spread the help, and that’s what we need right now.”
The company has long been an advocate for fighting climate change, and Burton Carpenter said she hopes another lesson that comes out of the tragedies playing out is a new embrace of science — regardless of political affiliation.
“The epidemiologists and scientists who are being trolled right now — that’s been happening for the last 10 years to the climate scientists,” she said. “I hope this sparks a renewed commitment to science.”
She made no predictions as to how her business will respond once the pandemic eases.
“But I think there will be a new appreciation for getting outside, and I think what brands are doing right now, in this minute, will define who they are going forward,” she said.
BURTON’S PRESS RELEASE
Burton Snowboards Donates Half A Million KN95 Respirator Masks
To Frontline Healthcare Workers Across The Northeast
Snowboard Company Mobilized Its Supply Chain to Produce and Distribute Protective Gear
Burlington, VT (April 8, 2020) Today, Burton Snowboards, the world’s leading snowboard manufacturer, announced that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is donating half a million (500,000) KN95 respirator masks to healthcare workers on the frontlines across the Northeast. To address the unprecedented personal protective equipment supply shortage and help keep frontline responders safe, Burton quickly mobilized its supply chain to rapidly source and produce the specialized masks in China.
The first 48,000 KN95 respirator masks have been delivered and will be distributed to hospitals across the state of Vermont, where Burton is headquartered and to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, where the late Jake Burton Carpenter spent two months of his life in the ICU battling Miller Fisher Syndrome in 2015. The additional 452,000 masks are expected to arrive over the course of the next 10 -14 days. The Vermont State Emergency Operations Center, with oversight and support from the Vermont Governor’s office, will also deliver 50% of the 500,000 total masks to designated hospitals in Boston and New York City where the need is the greatest.
“It is a national disgrace that the medical supply chain in this country has not been federalized and that states are competing for desperately needed supplies,” said Donna Carpenter, Chair of the Board at Burton. “This fundamental failure of federal leadership in our greatest hour of need will inevitably cause more pain, suffering and loss of precious life. That being said, it’s an honor to be able to quickly mobilize Burton’s supply chain to help the doctors, nurses and other selfless professionals who are saving lives right here in the Northeast.”
Carpenter continued, “My family cherishes the compassionate doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals who saved my husband’s life at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in 2015 and also those who cared for him at the University of Vermont Medical Center where he received cancer treatments and end of life care. Jake and I both grew up just outside of New York City, and to hear the stories about lack of personal protective equipment available to frontline workers in those areas is heartbreaking. I wish we could do more, but I’m glad we could make a bit of a difference right here in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York by donating half a million KN95 masks.”
Burton enlisted its longest-standing snowboard binding factory partner, Fudakin, to source the critical gear from China and UPS Express to move the supplies to the United States.
“This incredibly generous donation from Burton Snowboards is greatly appreciated and on behalf of all Vermonters, I want to thank Donna and the entire company,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Protecting our frontline healthcare workers is not only the right thing to do, it is critical to our effort to face, fight and defeat this pandemic together. This is a prime example of how Vermonters are rising to the occasion and uniting around a common purpose during these unprecedented times.”
Burton has a fierce commitment to doing business as a force for good. No contribution is too small and Burton is constantly looking for new ways to help the crisis the world is facing, both as a company and as individuals. With medical masks in short-supply, dozens of employees are sewing fabric face masks from home that will be donated to area medical professionals. The company has also kicked-off a production effort to make medical face shields for local healthcare workers. The face shields are being manufactured at Burton’s Rapid Prototype Facility in Burlington, VT during the month of April, with a goal of producing 500 per week to be distributed to the University of Vermont Medical Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and Boston Children’s Hospital employees.
Additionally, Anon, Burton’s helmet and goggle division, is working with GogglesforDocs.com to provide snow goggles to medical professionals in need of eye protection. To date, they have donated over 1,300 goggles. The brand has also set up a bin outside of Burton HQ in Burlington, VT and urges anyone who can to donate their used goggles, which will go through a quarantine process before being distributed.
ABOUT BURTON: In 1977, Jake Burton Carpenter founded Burton Snowboards out of his Vermont barn and dedicated the rest of his life to snowboarding. Since its founding, Burton has played a pivotal role in growing snowboarding from a backyard hobby to a world-class sport by creating groundbreaking products, supporting a team of top snowboarders and pushing resorts to allow snowboarding. Today, Burton designs and manufactures industry-leading products for snowboarding and the outdoors. As a sustainability leader within the outdoor and winter sports industries, Burton is the world’s first snowboard company to become a certified B Corporation®. Privately held and owned by Donna Carpenter, Burton’s headquarters are in Burlington, Vermont with offices in Austria, Japan, Australia, Canada and China.