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Laguna Beach student-athletes giving back through ‘Sewing for SoCal’

Laguna Beach High student-athletes Myha Pinto, Michael Pinto, and Jackson Golden, from right, sew and assemble homemade cotton masks for their "Sewing for SoCal" organization.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Michael Pinto is an attacker for the Laguna Beach High boys’ water polo team, and a good leader.

Coach Ethan Damato said that Pinto will be a team captain next fall for his senior year. Pinto is currently showing initiative out of the pool and helping those in his community.

Pinto’s freshman sister Myha also plays water polo. They have teamed with Breakers junior football player Jackson Golden to form the school club “Sewing for SoCal.” Over the past week, they have sewn and donated more than 100 masks to their families, neighbors and local organizations to aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The teenagers have been able to borrow two sewing machines, and have had cotton material donated to them, as well as the elastic bands to hold the masks in place. They have been sewing 20 to 30 masks per day at the Pinto home, Michael Pinto said. Since they are 100% cotton, they are washable and reusable.

“We’re not doing this to make a profit,” Pinto said. “We’re just doing this to give back to our community, because we know it’s really hard for a lot of people right now with what’s going on in the world. We’re just trying to give back.”

Laguna Beach Unified School District, which is employing distance learning, is currently on spring break. That hasn’t stopped the Pinto siblings and Golden. On Thursday morning, they stopped by the police department to drop off more than 40 masks, which were received by Sgt. Jason Farris.

Farris assured the kids that the masks would be distributed soon.

“Great use of downtime,” he said.

Student-athletes Michael Pinto, Jackson Golden, and Myha Pinto, donate a package of cotton masks to Sgt. Jason Farris of the Laguna Beach Police Department, center, during their donation rounds on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Masks have also been donated at the Laguna Beach food pantry, as well as the Royal Hawaiian restaurant in town. In total, more than 100 masks have been donated, Michael Pinto said, to fight COVID-19.

“We’ve got all of this free time, so we might as well use it productively,” said Golden, who also runs track but has seen that spring sport wiped away. “We saw that there was a shortage of masks around the country, so we thought it was probably localized here in Laguna too.”

They have utilized word of mouth, as well as social media, since starting to sew the masks. “Sewing for SoCal” has a website, as well as a GoFundMe account. The goal for the GoFundMe is $1,000; as of Thursday night, nearly half of that amount had been raised.

An Instagram page also has been set up for progress updates.

The Pintos’ mother, Lindsay, said that support from the community has been impressive.

“We don’t have a sewing machine,” Lindsay Pinto said. “It was, ‘Where do we start?’ There was a lot of Googling. The first [mask], they did by hand, and it took them three or four hours. And then the next thing I know, we had two sewing machines dropped off.”

A pile of cotton cloth is ready for assemblage from student-athletes Myha Pinto, Michael Pinto and Jackson Golden, as they sew together homemade cotton masks for their "Sewing for SoCal" organization in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Word is getting around the community about the difference that the teenagers are making. Myha Pinto, who played on the Breakers JV girls’ water polo team this winter, had a Zoom meeting with her water polo teammates on Wednesday. One of the juniors in the program asked her about the club, she said, and she was able to share it with the group.

Michael Pinto was already on the recreation board for the city of Laguna Beach even before the coronavirus outbreak. He said “Sewing for SoCal” is in it for the long haul, until the coronavirus is under control.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the use of masks while out in public until further notice. On Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made an order that L.A. residents need to wear facial coverings while visiting essential businesses.

“We’re going to keep sewing masks until the coronavirus goes away,” Michael Pinto said. “We want to do everything we can to help those around us.”

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