General manager Rick Wick, right, hands the keys to a new Mazda MX-5 Miata 100th Anniversary Special Edition to Matthew Elieson for his pandemic efforts on Friday at Classic Mazda of Denton.

After working with over a dozen local businesses to design and 3D-print job-specific personal protective equipment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Matthew Elieson of Sanger was made the area’s inaugural Mazda Hero Friday at Classic Mazda of Denton — and took home a special-edition car to commemorate the occasion.

The Mazda Heroes program was launched in October as part of Mazda’s 100-year anniversary, seeking to honor active community members. Elieson was one of 50 winners from across the country, each of whom took home a Mazda MX-5 Miata 100th Anniversary Special Edition car. Mazda advertised the contest through social media, and Denton location General Manager Rick Wick said no employees could recommend potential winners.

“[Participants] send submissions directly to Mazda,” Wick said. “North American operations made the selection.”

Elieson’s submission was a video narrated by his wife Lindsey that outlined his PPE printing efforts in addition to his role at home.

“Despite being a hero to all these other people, my husband still makes time to spend with us, making him our hero, too,” she said in the submission.

Elieson, a coordinator for a freight company, said he’s been 3D-printing since 2016 and designing long before that, which led to his pandemic efforts in March.

“I was getting lots of articles of other people who were printing PPE, specifically a lot of face shields,” Elieson said. “And I was getting lots of requests for people who wanted me to design PPE specific to their job and work conditions.”

While Elieson said he couldn’t disclose which businesses he’s worked with, some of his recent finished products include a “safe sing” mask that uses a frame to hold the cloth far enough away for vocalists to have movement freedom with their mouths, improving their performance quality, and a mask augmented with a computer fan running off a USB battery, designed to cool down physical laborers.

Elieson said he supplies those products for cheap and has additionally made donations of free face shield headbands.

“We had just bought a Mazda in May or June, I was still getting articles about them and I saw that competition come up,” Elieson said. “I was thinking, ‘Surely there’s a bunch of ICU nurses and other people’ … I was slightly optimistic but honestly, I did not expect to hear back as quickly as I did.”

Elieson said his car prize means more than just a luxury, as his family has had only one vehicle for over two years.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge with me working nights,” Elieson said. “Now that we have two, it’s going to be so nice.”

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