Thurston fifth graders donate homemade pillowcases to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital


Mrs. Sheryl Pokela's fifth grade class at Thurston Elementary donated 50 homemade pillowcases to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital last month before the holiday break.

By Tara Cavanaugh, AAPS News Service

Sometimes, making a difference is as easy as making a pillowcase.

That’s what Mrs. Sheryl Pokela’s class of fifth graders at Thurston Elementary learned last month. For a class project, the students sewed kid-friendly pillowcases that they donated to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital just before the start of the holiday break.

Mrs. Pokela was inspired to do the class project after she read an article in Family Circle magazine about ConKerr Cancer, a nonprofit that donates homemade pillowcases to young patients facing long hospital stays.

The organization, whose tagline is “A Case for Smiles,” seeks to give kids a sense of comfort in the hospital, which can be an uncomfortable or scary place. Founder Cynthia Kerr came up with the idea after her son was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.

Each student in Mrs. Pokela’s class picked out fabric and learned to use a sewing machine, aided by the help of parent volunteers. All 25 students made pillows, and Mrs. Pokela made another 25, for a total of 50 donated pillowcases.

The pillowcases, all neatly sewed, washed and pressed, were as unique as the students who made them.

Emmett picked out a fabric printed with robots for his pillowcase. Jack chose fabric with a map of the entire United States. Elizabeth, holding a pillowcase covered in giraffes, picked her fabric because “I thought it’s really soft, and that any kid would like this pillowcase.”

Pokela said students spent two hours making their pillowcases. The small effort was greatly appreciated, said Kathy Richards-Peal, an art therapist at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Richards-Peal said the patients get to pick out their own pillowcases, and the gift is especially meaningful for the children who have been there for a long time. “Anything that will make their room feel more personal,” she said. “Sometimes the parents get really excited too. Anything that will really lighten the room.”

For the doctors, nurses and staff who visit the patient, the pillowcase is also a conversation starter. “It’s something to talk about other than the sick kid,” she said. “It’s a way of connecting.”

Richards-Peal said the hospital staff is especially impressed by Mrs. Pokela’s class.

“For that age group to do something so selfless, it says a lot about the direction the teachers are giving them,” she said. “We’re very thankful. It’s great to get things that are made by kids, for kids.”

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