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A Northside teen who competes in beauty pageants to help deal with autism is sewing face masks for people in her community to wear during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Olivea Slaney began cutting up some of her clothes that no longer fit and turning them into masks. The 16-year-old then puts them in bags with a note explaining they are free to anyone and staples them to utility poles around North Sydney, Florence and Sydney Mines.
“I’ve been seeing people walking around the streets without masks on and I felt bad for them that they couldn’t get any masks from the stores, so I went upstairs and I said to my mom, ‘I see people walking around the streets, can I please make masks for them?’” said the Grade 10 student at Memorial High School, who is the current Canadian Ambassadors Miss Teen Nova Scotia. “It makes me happy seeing people safe and wearing my masks. It makes me smile knowing that they’re safe.”
Her mother Charmaine Slaney said in the past seven days they have distributed more than 100 masks through their Facebook page Mask for the Public Stay Safe. Usually, they leave them in their mailbox for people to pick up, or drop them off at people’s doorsteps. They decided to put some on poles for people who don’t have access to the internet.
“So that’s why we’ve attached them to poles too, so if someone is just walking by they’ll see the bag, read the note and take it,” said the 40-year-old who also shares her North Sydney home with her husband Jason Slaney and their other daughter Melody Slaney.
She said she began entering Olivea in pageants at age six as a way to overcome her autism.
“It was my way of showing her that she could set a goal and reach that goal despite all the different difficulties that she faces day to day having autism.”
The pageants naturally led to charity work and Olivea has given to the Every Woman’s Centre, food banks in Sydney Mines and Sydney and the IWK. Recently she competed in a pageant in North Sydney that raised more than $1,100 for the Five Eleven Youth and Family Centre.
Olivea said she plans to keep giving back and teaching other children with disabilities that they can achieve whatever goals they set.
“When I was younger I couldn’t put my mind to stuff so my mom entered me in my first pageant to teach me that I could put my mind to something. I entered my pageant and I went home with the highest title — I was Miss Newfoundland Princess — and I was thinking to myself, ‘Man, I can put my mind to anything I want, like I put my mind to making those masks,” she said.
“Where I see myself in 10 years is helping out kids with disabilities that think that they can not put their minds to something. I would like to teach them that they can put their mind to something if they fight for the future and know that they can do something if they really want to.”