Family donates 2,000 masks from China to St. Mary’s in Madison

MADISON, Wis. — Hospitals across the country and the world are still competing when it comes to getting their hands on personal protective equipment for their staff – but thanks to a donation from halfway around the world, at least one Madison hospital is more prepared.

Weiqiang and Helen Li have spent the last 10 years thinking fondly of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, even after a move back to their home country of China.

“It’s St. Mary’s that brought my two angels to me,” Helen says. “They were so gentle and kind to everyone. It really made me feel at home.”

While Weiqiang was working at the University of Wisconsin in the campus’s geology department, Helen birthed both their daughters at the hospital – on the same date, three years apart.

“St. Mary’s is kind of a lucky hospital for me,” she says.

Once the family returned home to China, they never had the opportunity to properly thank hospital staff for their care – until a worldwide pandemic hit, and the Lis found themselves with a way to give back.

“We decided we are going to mail 2,000 masks to St. Mary’s Hospital just to say thank you to the doctors and the nurses of Madison,” Weiqiang said.

“We’ve seen families and businesses bring in in boxes with 20 or 40 masks, and that is incredible,” said Robbie Sonnentag, St. Mary’s Hospital Director of Women & Children’s Services. “To hear that one family brought us 2,000 masks… that makes a big difference.”

The donation made waves immediately. The hospital hands out up to 600 masks a day to its staff. Not only does the Lis’ donation cover all St. Mary’s employees for days on end, it will enable the hospital to offer masks to visitors, as well.

“We’re so grateful they remembered us in our time of need, because the staff took care of them in their time of great need,” Sonnentag said.