TORONTO -- A Toronto woman who survived breast and bone cancer is spending her time amid the pandemic carefully sewing masks to keep her community safe. 

After realizing that everyone would be social distancing for a while, Deanna Insley said she was thankful to have her sewing machine with her. 

“I decided just to keep myself busy,” she told CTV News Toronto. “And [thought] hey, let’s make the whole community safe so we can all get back out.” 

She said that not before long, she had made about 600 hundred masks for people. 

“We’ve joked a couple times because it looks like she has a factory in the kitchen,” housemate Lisa Monaco said. “She’s got a ton of them now, and she’s just been giving them out to anyone who needs one, really.”

“A lot of us have fear going out into the grocery store … She’s just giving people a sense of safety and confidence. That’s really special and something we can’t take for granted.” 

Insley said she’s been handing out the masks at no cost to the recipients. 

“It makes me feel good to help others and know that I’m keeping them safe, and they’re all so grateful,” she said. 

With an ever-growing focus on wearing masks in public, Insley said the demand for them has only increased. 

Insley said she knows what it is like to have a weakened immune system, and the vulnerability that goes along with it. 

“This isn’t the worst I’ve been through, but my glass is always half full,” she said. “I just try to encourage people to try and find the positives in what we’re going through.”

The staff at the hospital, where Insley received treatment, have been the recipients of some of her homemade masks. 


“They loved them so much that now all the other nurses want some,” Insley said with a laugh. “I’ll make a thousand masks for them if they need it just to help pay them back.”

Monaco said that being able to see Insley thrive with her sewing machine during this pandemic has been “motivating.”

“It makes me emotional and I’m just so happy that she’s here with us today,” Monaco told CTV News Toronto. “I love the fact that she’s able to pay it forward, so it’s been wonderful.”


And while Insley has faced challenges sourcing the right elastic for the masks at times, she said she’ll keep making them as long as she can. 

“I’m blessed to be able to do it,” she said. “That’s what I feel charity is all about … you do what you can.”