An area organization dedicated to disability awareness is taking a little different approach to dealing with the mask mandate in most school districts.

The group Down Country was busy Monday, distributing nearly 20,000 clear masks to Adams County school districts and colleges. The individual number of masks handed out range from about 900 in the Payson schools to some 8,000 for the Quincy Public Schools.

The masks being distributed by Down Country are reusable washable cotton masks with a clear window. The transparent section makes the wearer's lips visible, making lip reading and making out the speaker's facial expression much easier.

Down Country is calling this effort the "#Smile4EveryChild campaign." According to Down Country President and Founder Kate Dougherty, "This is not designed to open a debate on 'to mask or not to mask.' Many individuals rely on lip reading and facial expressions in order to communicate and learn. Multiple Tri-State schools are under mandated orders to mask. Down Country supports those who argue this point - Down Country also supports those who agree with this course of action. But above all else, Down Country believes in access to life for every child and lips and facial expressions are part of that access, especially for individuals who learn and live life differently."

If you need masks for a mandated area school, you can call or text 217-617-3568 or email:

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