23 Jan A Case for Smiles: Helping kids feel, heal better
There’s a lot more than quilting going on at Quilter’s Choice on Maplewood Drive in Jupiter.
The shop, now under a new owner Lori Fitzgerald, has been renovated and offers lots of holiday project seminars. Of course, there are a display of quilts and a huge selection of fabrics. This is all in the front of the shop.
Behind the scenes is a whole different story … with the gathering of volunteers to make pillowcases for the children’s wings of seven South Florida hospitals, including the new De George Pediatric Unit of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital at Jupiter Medical Center.
Ryan’s Case for Smiles
The current project is called Ryan’s Case for Smiles.
Under the local leadership of super-charged Marilyn Degler, the talented ladies produce between 100 to 200 pillowcases a session.
This national organization has more than 120 chapters, and in total is composed of thousands of volunteers. More than 6 million hours of volunteer time are donated annually to help more than 50,000 children in 330 hospitals.
That’s more than a million pillowcases delivered to help make kids feel better and heal better.
Case for Smiles
Case for Smiles was started by Cindy Kerr in 2002 as a memorial of her son, Ryan. If you go online to www.caseforsmiles.org, you’ll note that the logo is a young child wearing red sneakers and hugging a pillow.
“I heard about the pillowcases and wanted to help,” Degler said. “I tried to find a chapter within the Palm Beaches and finally gave up and put in a call to Cindy. After talking with her and discovering that there were no chapters in our area, she suggested that I might want to start my own chapter.”
Four quilt stores
The chapters have grown to include four quilt stores, including Quilters Choice in Jupiter, Laura’s Sewing on North Lake Boulevard in Lake Park, Stitch Craft in Boca Raton and Quilt a Bit in Green Acres.
Most of the chapters have anywhere from 10 to 25 volunteers at the monthly gathering.
“There is always a challenge in the month of February,” Degler said. “It’s called Miles of Pillow Smiles (MOPS). The goal for each chapter is to make a mile (2,112 pillowcases) in February.
“We almost made it last year when we produced 1,901,” Degler said. “The total for all of the national chapters was over 28 miles of pillowcases.”
That’s a lot of pillowcases requiring a great deal of fabric.
“It is all donated by community service groups, private individuals, interior design shops and anyone who just happens to have an excess of fabrics they’re clearing out of their homes,” she said. “We’re fortunate to have several women’s groups who have taken an interest and donate either fabrics or money to purchase fabrics and thread.”
The process is like a factory assembly line. Degler brings in the fabric and does all of the cutting. It’s then turned over to the pinning table, where the ladies pin the headers to the body of fabric. From there, it goes to the ironing board and then to the sergers — or the group of ladies at the sewing machines.
Once the sides are stitched, the cases are turned to the right side and folded. The next step is done by Degler, who brings the cases home to be washed, ironed and packaged, ready to go to the hospital.
“The kids’ reactions are priceless,” Degler said.
“They get very attached to their own pillowcase. The parents are as thrilled as the kids. Some of the cancer patients get more than one, as they receive one every time they come in for a treatment,” she said. “My biggest goal is that I don’t run out of fabric.”
If you belong to a community service group and would like to donate fabric or money, Degler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the national group, visit online at www.caseforsmiles.org.
Locally, they’re always looking for more volunteers.