Pillowcases for sick kids: ‘It’s heartwarming’

Volunteers get together to socialize and put a smile on children’s faces

Marsha Weldon said this is a fine way to spend the day before her 71st birthday. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

About 20 women, and a few men, sat side-by-side cutting fabric, sewing and bagging colourful pillowcases Saturday afternoon.

The volunteers gather twice a year to make hundreds of pillowcases for sick children in the two Moncton hospitals.

Organizer Eleanor Weldon said she stores the pillowcases and every month brings 25 of them to Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital and 25 to the Moncton Hospital.

The fabric comes from community donations (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

“I work at it all year really, cutting and washing and ironing, but my big events are twice a year,” she said. “I guess it’s just the way you can give back to the community and it’s fun and the ladies who love to come and sew and we have a fun day.”

Last year, she said they made more than 500 cases.

Weldon has been organizing this semi-annual sew-athon since 2013, she said, but it’s a chapter of a foundation called Ryan’s Case for Smiles which was started by a mother in 2002.

“Her son [Ryan Kerr] was very ill and she wanted to put a smile on his face and she brought him a pillowcase, and the other children love them as well and so they started in her hospital, and it’s grown from there,” Weldon said.

Like a well-oiled machine, the assembly-line produced case after whimsical case, with the productivity interrupted only by a food break and some jokes. All cases were individually bagged and stacked in big plastic tubs.

Among the many volunteers, Marsha Wilson sat at the end of a table sewing a pillowcase out of blue fabric printed with tiny cartoon giraffes and elephants. She said she’s been volunteering to sew and cut for the last five years, and her favourite thing is socializing with people she’s known most of her life.

“It’s fun, it’s a good day out and these are mostly people that we’ve grown up with,” Wilson said.

She said some of the pillowcases are sent to nursing homes or special care homes as well.

Weldon said this “wouldn’t be possible” without the volunteers and sponsors who pay for the materials. She said the biggest contributor is the Moncton chapter of the Independent Order of Foresters, which spends an average of $2,000 on materials every year.

“I don’t get to see the children get their pillowcases, but when I do go to the hospital [staff] are so happy to see us coming with our pillowcases and they tell me the kids love them,” she said. “It’s heartwarming.”

Some women come from church groups while others want to keep their friends company and do some good. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

One woman emailed to tell her that her grandson was very sick in the hospital and, “he felt that that pillow case was just for him and he showed it to everybody and he got to feel better.”

Wilson said Saturday was extra special because it’s the day before her birthday. She’s turning 71.

“It’s the sewing and the people, that’s what I like,” she laughed. “It’s a good way to spend my birthday.”

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