Sewing Smiles: Volunteers create cheerful pillowcases for hospitalized children

Ryan’s Case for Smiles is a volunteer organization that creates and donates whimsical pillowcases to children in hospitals.

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  • | 12:30 p.m. October 17, 2018
Volunteers for Ryan’s Case for Smiles created pillowcases that will be donated to local hospitals.
Volunteers for Ryan’s Case for Smiles created pillowcases that will be donated to local hospitals.
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Bev Read loves sewing so much that her fabric collection fills up her garage and her attic. So, when the self-proclaimed “fabriholic” discovered Ryan’s Case for Smiles, it was the perfect match.

“It was a match made in heaven, because I can use up all my fabric,” Read said, laughing. “I’m what they call a fabriholic. If I see fabric, I buy it.” 

Ryan’s Case for Smiles is a volunteer organization dedicated to helping make children feel better. Case for Smiles volunteers create colorful and cheerful pillowcases that are distributed to hospitalized children battling cancer or other life-changing illnesses. In addition to donating pillowcases, volunteers occasionally visit hospitals to sew with the children, said Jenny Ames, coordinator for the Orlando chapter of Ryan’s Case for Smiles.

“The most rewarding (aspect) is when we get to go to the hospital and sew with the kids (who) are there that have cancer,” Ames said. “That is the most rewarding part of it — to see their faces when they make their first pillowcase. … Everybody just loves it. It’s a lot of camaraderie and fun.”

Read has been involved with the Orlando Chapter of Ryan’s Case for Smile since June. She’s involved in a sewing group that meets Saturday mornings at the Lake Trail Residents Club at Independence in Horizon West, 14600 Avenue of the Groves. In June, the group sewed 138 pillowcases for Case for Smiles. Since then, members of the group have been sewing pillowcases for the organization during their free time. They got together again Oct. 13 to sew more pillowcases for Ryan’s Case for Smiles. Moving forward, however, the group will be needing some help, Read said. 

“We are looking for donations of fabric,” Read said. “The biggest (thing we need) is just getting people out to volunteer. … If we could get more volunteers, that would be great.”

Donated pillowcases, fabrics and threads must be made from 100%, child-friendly cotton and pre-washed with unscented laundry detergent with no added fabric softeners. It’s recommended that donated fabrics be fun, silly, colorful and cheerful. For volunteers, sewing experience isn’t required.

“Pillowcases are easy to make,” Read said. “You can make them as silly as you want. That’s the best thing. They’re so much fun to make. … If they don’t sew, they can cut out pillowcases, they can iron (or) they can press them after we’re done and put them in a plastic bag.”

Formerly known as ConKerr Cancer, Ryan’s Case for Smiles was founded in 2007 in Pennsylvania by Cindy Kerr. Her son Ryan, for whom the organization is named, was battling cancer at the time and was in and out of the hospital for treatment, Ames said.

“Every time he (Ryan) went into the hospital, the place was really dull looking,” Ames said. “So (Kerr) made him a pillowcase and took it to him. When he got the pillowcase, the other cancer patients (liked them) … so he asked his mom to start making them.”

Those interested in getting involved can sign up to volunteer online. Monetary donations can also be made online, and fabric or pillowcase donations can be taken to Read or any Case For Smiles Orlando drop-off site. A drop-off site is located at Nancy’s Quilt Shop, 121 W. Plant St., Winter Garden.

In addition to sharing a love of sewing, Read and Ames each have a personal connection to Ryan’s Case for Smiles. Both of their mothers died of cancer. 


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