Olde City Escape Games: A small business that’s contributing in a big way


Photos Courtesy of Operation PPE

Photos Courtesy of Operation PPE

 By Gabrielle Houck

Since the shutdown of non-essential businesses, entrepreneurs are utilizing their resources to help healthcare workers.

It wasn’t long ago that Brooks Bell and Vi Vu were using their 3D printer to make props for their coveted escape room. Unfortunately, as we all know, businesses like Olde City Escape Games that are centered around human interaction have been mandated to close their doors. 

Bell and Vu have found a new use for their 3D printer; it’s now producing face shields for healthcare workers. The shield is meant to be worn over an N95 respirator to help prevent the spread of bodily fluids from infected patients to healthcare workers. “It was just something that we immediately recognized we could do to contribute,” Vu says. “If we can’t be operating right now, it’s a great way to utilize it.” 

Bell and Vu are part of a larger grassroots movement that consists of small businesses rallying for their communities despite the circumstances. Vu and Bell explain, “we’re merely lending our skills as part of a larger team.”

Initially, the duo funded their operation completely out of pocket, despite receiving no income from their business. They transformed their living room into a round-the-clock operation cranking out as many shields as they could with one 3D printer. As more people started to see on social media what the pair were doing, they realized their project was going to need some help. 

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“We got a really positive response from our community of supporters and friends, which led to more requests,” Bell says. “We started to realize this was bigger than something that we could just run out of our living room.” 

Pleas from healthcare workers motivated them to expand as well. “All of a sudden we got [this] outpouring [of] messages about how bad it is in certain areas and how someone’s mom, or sister or aunt has been wearing the same mask for three weeks,” Bell says. 

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The positive responses from the community, combined with heart wrenching messages from healthcare workers, inspired Bell and Vu to take their project to the next level. 
They started a GoFundMe so that they could buy more printers to double their production of shields. The money raised also helped to cover the costs of other materials like filament, packaging and shipping supplies. “We started with a smaller goal, and we hit very quickly, so we raised it to $5,000 with the same plan of buying more equipment and shipping more units,” Bell says. 

Before they raised money, Bell and Vu were making about 11 shields a day. In April they sent their first 100 shields to Temple Medical Center, Einstein Medical Center, Saunders House Senior Home and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. Now with the help of donations, they’ve been able to purchase two additional 3D printers and up their production to almost 30 to 40 shields a day. Since they started the project they have been able to produce 2,000 shields. 

In addition to donating to large-scale hospitals, Bell and Vu have made it part of their mission to respond to workers in smaller health-care facilities like nursing homes and medical centers. They also wanted to make sure nurses in units other than ICU were receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) as well, receiving requests from Temple Hospital workers who worked in units like respiratory therapy. 

“As we started posting about it, we had a lot of people reaching out to us requesting it for certain units so that really became more of our focus, like focusing on those individuals that we could help out rather than just kind of blindly sending them,” Bell says. 

Vu and Bell emphasize that they’re not seeking any recognition or rewards for their efforts, they simply have come to the realization that the best way to battle this pandemic is through team work. 

“Without a vaccine, we’re all we’ve got, but we certainly have more when we help each other,” Vu says.

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