VINTON–The Big Lick RV Chapter of the Good Sam Club has adopted the project of sewing hundreds of pillowcases for children admitted to the Carilion Pediatric Hospital. They are partnering with the Alleghany Highlands Regional Chapter for Ryan’s Case for Smiles—a volunteer organization solely dedicated to helping sick children cope with the stress of their illnesses and injuries during their stay in the hospital. The organization’s motto is “Ryan’s Case for Smiles—helping kids feel better to heal better.”
“We are providing children with whimsical pillowcases that give them an emotional boost and remind them that they are not defined by their illness,” said Faye Amos, a member of the Big Lick RV Chapter.
They hold sewing events at different locations where volunteers cut, fold, sew, and iron pillowcases using colorful and age appropriate fabric for young girls and boys, and teens.
“Our chapter is working with Carilion’s Pediatric Hospital in providing pillowcases as they are admitted to the hospital,” said Amos. “The children get to take their pillowcase home when they are discharged from the hospital.”
Since February of this year when they first undertook the project, the volunteers have made and distributed about 400 pillowcases to Carilion Pediatric Hospital in Roanoke, which has over 2,000 pediatric admissions per year. The ultimate goal of Good Sams and Ryan’s Case for Smiles is to “provide each and every one of those children a fun pillowcase.”
Ryan’s Case for Smiles was founded about 10 years ago by Cindy Kerr whose son Ryan was hospitalized when diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer. She began making pillowcases to brighten up his hospital room and “put a smile on his face.” That led to making the cases for other children. The organization spread across the nation.
Ryan lost his battle with cancer, but his legacy lives on as Ryan’s Case for Smiles. There are now more than 120 chapters made up of thousands of volunteers with over 330 hospitals helped each year. Over one million pillowcases have been made and delivered so far to children with life-changing illnesses.
Mary Jo Reed is the Alleghany Highlands Regional Coordinator for Ryan’s Case. She works with local businesses to find locations for the pillowcase sewing events—like meeting rooms or conference rooms. The Good Sam group brings their sewing machines and material. They set up the room in assembly line fashion to meet their needs with areas for cutting, folding, sewing, and ironing, and start making pillowcases.
Their latest sewing session was at Teaberry’s Café in Vinton on June 15 where owner Brenda Johnson provided the private dining room for the group. They set up the room with their fabric and equipment, had lunch, and then spent a couple of hours sewing about 20 bright and colorful pillowcases to donate to children at Carilion.
It takes three-fourths of a yard of fabric for the body of the pillowcase and one third of a yard for the border. They prefer to use bright patterns and prints that will appeal to children.
The fabric is cut into cases and borders which are sewn together and then folded into “fabric burritos.” The burritos are turned inside out and the seams stitched three times before the case is completed, and ready to be ironed and packaged in ziplocs. The volunteers also write a note to each child to include with the case.
Their goal is to recruit more volunteers to help sew, iron, cut, or fold; to collect donations of fabric, money, and time; to locate places where they can set up a sewing sessions; and to spread awareness about their mission.
Individuals do not need to be members of the RV club to participate; they don’t have to be women; they don’t even need to be able to sew to help with a session or the project in general. Everyone is welcome and can help in some way. Other organizations are invited to join in as a one-time project or on a continuing basis, including church groups, scout troops, and sororities.
The chapter has scheduled pillowcase events in the near future at Quilting Essentials on June 30, at Carilion’s ION Building (the old Ukrops) on July 5 (followed by lunch at Athen’s Grill), at the Raleigh Court Library on July 14 (with lunch at Pops Ice Cream and Soda Bar beforehand), and at HITS Homemade Ice Cream Treats and Shaved Ice on July 20.
“With every stitch, every yard of fabric, and every pillowcase, we are one step closer to our goal of helping kids feel better to heal better,” said Reed and Amos. “We are so appreciative that our local businesses have welcomed us with open arms.”
They now have volunteers who watch all of the ads for fabric sales—(Amos’s sisters send her fabric from sales at Gibson stores in Texas)–some even finding bargains as they travel.
In fact, that’s how the Big Lick Good Sam RV Chapter found out about Ryan’s Case for Smiles in the first place. Their GPS mistakenly led a couple of them to the wrong location (which turned out to be the right location) and they ended up at a Quilting Guild event in North Carolina where there was a table set up for Ryan’s Case for Smiles. They took the idea back to the RV group and it blossomed from there.
They have had support and donations from the United Methodist Women at Rockingham Court, the Blue Ridge Quilting Guild, the Circle of Mary at the Church of Transfiguration in Fincastle, the Cloverdale Church of the Brethren, and Kohls.
More information is available on Ryan’s Case for Smiles at www.caseforsmiles.org.