Beautiful things are coming together one stitch at a time in Huntington.
Six years ago, Eileen Farren, of Sacred Heart Parish, learned about a special sewing project to help children in hospitals by giving them hand-sewn cheery cotton pillowcases – Ryan’s Case for Smiles. It didn’t take much for her to convince her friends Kathleen Gross (of Ascension Catholic Church in Hurricane) from her sewing group; and Heidi Smithers, owner of Sew Many Blessings Quilt Shop, to join her in this endeavor they now call the Pillowcase Party.
This good will gathering grew from producing 100 pillowcases its first year in 2014 into creating more than 620 pillowcases this year.
“We had more than 50 volunteers – women and men, along with a few grandchildren and teen helpers,” Farren said.
“Heidi and Kathleen are super sweet ladies, but when it comes time for the ‘Party’ they become positive task masters. It is an assembly line that Henry Ford would be proud,” she added with a chuckle.
Volunteers pin, sew, wash, iron, fold and package each pillowcase. The group then delivers their pillowcases to Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, and CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital in Charleston, where they are given to not only pediatric cancer patients, but also any child staying in the hospital.
Gross said it is “simply amazing to see people come together for a great cause. It is an ecumenical movement to help children who are going through a medical struggle of some sort.
“Our goal is to make a child smile,” she said. “You pray that this makes them happy.”
Pillowcase Party day lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Surrounded by seemingly endless yards of colorful patterns of unicorns, monster trucks, farm scenes, and so much more, the volunteers show up ready to work, but also wanting to make a difference for a child.
“We are doing the work God wants us to,” Smithers, who donates the super majority of the fabric, said. “We all hope to be a blessing.”
For Smithers, the project has become a bit more personal than the first year she got involved. A few years ago, she received a call from a young girl she used to drive to her Baptist church. She had Smithers’ number, because she and her husband Phillip, “did all that we could for these kids. They knew we would make ourselves available to help them.
“It was a phone call I’ll never forget,” Smithers said, holding one hand to her heart, and the other wiping a tear from her eye, as she recalled that day. “She told me she had been shot but was okay and recovering in the local hospital. I of course went to her hospital room. When I walked into the room, I froze. There on her bed was one of the pillowcases our group had sewn. I was tearfully happy, and when I told her all about where that pillowcase came from, she couldn’t believe it. We both were all smiles.”