Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Katie's Comforters in CONNECTIONS Magazine

Seattle Children's - Connection Magazine, Winter 2010
Though our guild was not mentioned by name, there is a photo of our quilts with Julie Greves (Hem-Onc ChildLife worker and friend) and me, on page 11. The article, which tells about the importance of the ChildLife program, begins on page 8. It's worth reading - as are the other articles about what is happening at our wonderful hospital!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Katie's Comforters Guild and Hopeful Parents

Once a month, I write an online "column" for a website called Hopeful Parents. It's a wonderful community of people who write about life with children who have "special needs." I write about our situation, which was having a child who has cancer, and is now grief.

As I was writing the piece for this month, I shared what we are doing in Katie's Comforters Guild, so I thought you might like to read the piece. You may also know a family who would benefit from reading the blog, and being part of the Hopeful Parents community. If so, please follow the link above, and/or pass it on to others. Here is what I wrote for this month:

"I’m writing this on an airplane, returning home from celebrating Thanksgiving and two birthdays with my family (our son’s 17th and my mother’s 77th). It was a time of rest, recreation, breaking of bread and reunion with grandparents after their move to follow the sun for the winter months.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for its simplicity…no gifts, no cards, no elaborate preparations or festivities…just the nourishing of the body with good food, and soul with service, sharing and gratitude.

But in grief, it is often difficult to enjoy the holidays, because for all of our gratitude for what IS, we feel acutely what is missing…or, I should say, WHO is missing. Grief can be especially intense during the holidays. For us, these days without Katie will always be inferior to the days when she was with us - the days before her illness and her death. That’s a fact. Yet we are thankful for what remains: people who are dear to us, traditions that are beloved in their familiarity, and the comfort of memories that include Katie.

It’s amazing that a young lady who we knew for only 12 years could so profoundly change us that we will live the rest of our lives missing her. Gregg was 40 when Katie was born, and I was 35. Yet we will always feel that the light in our lives is diminished since her passing. That is the impact of a beautiful, light-filled girl.

In missing Katie, I have been impelled to reach out to others who are suffering by making blankets for other children in the very cancer ward where Katie was treated. This sewing project has now become a guild, which exists to provide a homemade blanket for every single patient who enters the hospital. This guild is groundbreaking, because it is “virtual,” does not require meetings or donations of money, and is not for fundraising. It is part of Katie’s legacy; her quilt - and the comfort she derived from it - inspired me to start sewing for the hospital.

I have been working to let people know about the guild, to rally support, writing and producing promotional materials. This work has reminded me of the enjoyment I had in my former working life. It energizes me. It’s not something I want to do all day, every day, but it gives me joy and a sense of accomplishment, every time I receive a “Yes,” and a “green light” in support of the guild. This is a direct effect of Katie’s life (and her death) on mine.

So this Thanksgiving, I have been particularly grateful for my family, friends and colleagues in this work. I am thankful for those who treated Katie and cared for her and our family when she was sick. And I give thanks to God for giving me an answer to my prayer: “What am I to do now?”

For all Hopeful Parents, I am thankful for you, and for this place where we can share our stories and support. Here is my prayer for all of us, quoted from Wayne Muller’s book, Learning to Pray:
“May all beings be healed.
May all beings be at peace.
May all beings be free from suffering.”

May it be so.

And may you enjoy the coming holidays, filled with love."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kitsap Sun Reports on Katie's Comforters Guild

Here it is...the article in the Kitsap Sun about Katie's Comforters Guild.

Fleece Blankets

If you don't sew, knit or crochet, take heart! There is another way to make blankets: use polar fleece.

Today, I had the pleasure of receiving three beautiful, bright, cozy fleece blankets that were made for Katie's Comforters Guild. The mother of one of David's tennis teammates made these for our guild to donate to the hospital. Here they are, folded in half:

Thank you, Karen T.!

I also had the (rather scary) opportunity to give an interview to a reporter from our local newspaper, the Kitsap Sun. She was very kind and easy to talk to, and she brought a photographer with her. Wouldn't you know, just before they arrived, I knocked my coffee cup over in the kitchen! I was cleaning up the mess when the doorbell rang. That was just the distraction I needed, to keep me from worrying too much about the interview.

We had a nice conversation. The photographer asked me to work on a quilt while he took pictures, so I pinned, sewed and chatted, while showing them how to make a quilt. I'm hoping that he will be extra kind when he decides which photos to use! I know it's not about me; it's about Katie's Comforters, but still, it's nerve-wracking to be photographed!

I took them up to Katie's room, and let them see and handle her quilt, which was the inspiration for this entire project, two years ago. After showing them the brand-new quilts, it was good to be able to show them what a quilt looks like after lots of use. They could feel its softness and see how much she had loved it - it's threadbare and faded, because it was such a constant comfort to her!

Look for the interview at http://www.kitsapsun.com/ tomorrow. Thank you, Marietta and Larry, for making it such a pleasant experience (in spite of my nervousness).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores Discounts for Katie's Comforters Guild Members

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter about Katie's Comforters Guild and sent it to four members of the executive board of Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, Inc. I thought that perhaps one of them might be interested enough in what we are doing to pass the letter on to the appropriate person in their corporation. Well, not one, but two of them forwarded the letter to Lisa G., the woman who is Jo-Ann's Director of Public Relations.

One of the most exciting things that has happened to me since our Guild began is the contact that I have had with Lisa G. She is interested, caring, compassionate and inspired to help us.

Lisa has sent 50 discount cards to our Guild!
These cards are for Guild members* to use when purchasing materials for making blankets for the hospital. They can be used over and over again. The cards are authorized by the corporation, so all that we need to do is fill out the back of the card with:

1.  the member's name,
2.  the Guild's name and
3.  our Guild's Tax Identification number.

Bring the discount card, with your Guild Membership Card, and a piece of photo identification (your driver's license, etc.) with you when you go to any of Jo-Ann's Fabric and Craft stores to shop for materials. Show the discount card to a cashier, with your Guild Membership Card and photo ID (it needs to match the name on your Guild Membership card), and you will receive 10% off of your total purchase price, including regular-priced AND sale items!
Here is a big thank you to Jo-Ann Stores' board of directors for sharing my letter with Lisa G!
and thank you to Lisa G. and Amy W. in the Public Relations department of Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores for sending the discount cards!

If you are a member* of Katie's Comforters Guild, and would like a Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores discount card, please leave a comment here, and I will send it to you. If you are not a member, and would like to join our Guild, please leave a comment here with your email address, and I will send an application to you.

Let the shopping begin! *

*Please remember that the discount cards are only for Guild Members' use, for purchasing materials for Katie's Comforters Guild projects.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blankets from West Coast Oddball Knitters

I recently received an email from a member of  West Coast Oddball Knitters.
Isn't that a wonderful name for a group?
They have a blog:  www.westcoastoddballknitters.blogspot.com, and can be found on the sites Ravelry and Knitting Help. They have members in Washington, Idaho, California, Wyoming, Colorado and Hawaii, all working on blankets together. Check out their blog, and find out how they do it! Their blankets are works of art. 

West Coast Oddball Knitters has offered to donate blankets to Seattle Children's Hospital through Katie's Comforters Guild. Here is a big THANK YOU! to West Coast Oddball Knitters for their support.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


We have received 5 new blankets this month from guild supporters. I will deliver them next month.

Thank you, Erin J. for this beautifully knitted (and gift-wrapped) blanket:

and Linda K.H. for these adorable quilts:

I delivered a batch that I made to the Hematology-Oncology ward, last week (but forgot to photograph them first).

Thank you for your gifts of blankets, supporters and guild members!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blissfully Domestic Features Our Guild

I can't remember how I first learned about the website called Blissfully Domestic. It's a site that features many subjects that interest me, and I enjoy its content and its writers' ideas.

Recently, I wrote to the editor and asked if they might like to publish an article about Katie's Comforters Guild. I sent a little bit of information about Katie and our experiences, and received a lovely and encouraging email in return. So I wrote the piece, sent it in, and this morning, the article was posted:
http://blissfullydomestic.com/2009/a-small-act-with-a-big-impact .

Thank you, Blissfully Domestic!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Free Patterns and Lots of Ideas

This is Liger, one of our two cats. He is cuddling with a beautiful prayer shawl that was made for me by my friend, Angela, years ago, using Lion Brand Homespun Yarn.

Every so often, I receive a newsletter, via email, from Lion Brand Yarns. Here is a link to the one I recieved today: http://www.lionbrand.com/Newsletters/55357.html .

It contains free patterns, and articles about knitting and crochet. If you'd like to receive the newsletter, you may sign up on the Lion Brand Yarn Website: http://www.lionbrand.com.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Coupon Offer

Are you an email customer of Jo-Ann Fabrics? They sent out an email with a 20%-off coupon in it, for you, your family and friends. That is 20% off of the entire purchase, including SALE items. I checked, and it's not on the website (they have other coupons there). If you want to be notified of sales and receive such coupons via email, you can go to their website and sign up.

Jo-Ann sells supplies for knitting, crocheting, sewing and non-sew craft projects (such as fleece blankets).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Calling All Quilters

Calling all quilters, and friends of quilters:  we have three, beautifully made quilt tops which need to be made into finished quilts.

Their sizes are: 
84" X 58"
93" X 68"
93" X 90"

These are treasures, and they are too large to donate to patients. Finishing the quilts will enable us sell them at an auction, to raise funds for the Guild.

Would you (or anyone you know) like to help?   If you are interested, please leave a comment here, including your contact information, and we will get in touch with you.

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Great Day for Katie's Comforters

Today was a great day for our guild. Our Treasurer (my sister-in-law, Katie's Auntie Linda) came to visit, and together, we went to Bank of America to open a checking and savings account for Katie's Comforters Guild. We opened this account with a generous donation from Auto Connections East in Bellevue, Washington, which is owned by my brother-in-law, Stu Cordova. Thank you, Stu (Katie's Uncle - you can learn more about him if you click on his name), and my sister Deb (Katie's Aunt)!

Here is a photo of our Treasurer, Linda Case.

If you're wondering what the object is next to her, it's a full roll of batting from Jo-Ann Fabrics.  All 18 yards of it, in one roll - that's enough to make 18 quilts!

Speaking of Jo-Ann Fabrics, we have just heard from their corporate office that they are going to provide discount cards for our guild members. When the cards arrive, I will post more about this. We want to thank Jo-Ann Fabrics for their interest, compassion and support!

Last, but not least, thank you, Mom, for your generous check, which paid for that roll of batting, and other quilting supplies!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Katie's Comforters Guild is Mentioned in Guild Notes

Katie's Comforters Guild was mentioned in the new email edition of Guild Notes. If you would like to receive this publication, or others, you may sign up on the
Seattle Children's Hospital website
on this page: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/ways-to-help/guilds/publications/

The entire website has been re-designed, so if you haven't been there lately, it's worth a visit, to see the new look.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cotton Fabric Available for Guild Members

If you are a guild member & need fabric in order to start making blankets for the Hospital, we have received donations, and can provide a variety of cottons for you.

Please leave a comment here, including your email address, and I will get in touch with you about sending fabric to you.

If you have cotton or flannel fabric, or yarn, that you would like to donate, please leave a comment here, with your email address, and I will contact you about that. Thank you!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Two-Plus Years, and A Bounty of Quilts Donated!

We have been sewing quilts for Seattle Children's Hospital's SCCA (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) ward since the autumn of 2007. We made our first donation in March of 2008.

The photos here show quilts that have been sewed by kind and generous people, locally and around the country, and donated to the SCCA ward at Seattle Children's Hospital.

I hope these photos give you inspiration.

Now, we would love to have photos of you with your knitted, crocheted, fleece or sewed blankets. If you would like to have your photo included here, please leave a comment and I will send my email address to you. You can email the photo to me, and I will put it up here on the site.
It would be inspiring and exciting to see what you are creating!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More About Blankets

When our children were tiny, they each had a favorite blanket. They have been given a variety of blankets at different times in their lives, and their favorites changed.

I've been going through old photos, and I can see many examples. 

There are photos of them with blankets that they enjoyed cuddling with, sleeping with and using for coziness (for example, wearing a blanket, rather than a bathrobe).

They packed their blankets, and took them on vacation. After a long day of swimming and playing in California, Katie got cozy with her blanket (and her dad) on the couch. 

Here is Katie on a weekend morning, before she had cancer. She is playing a video game with David (and chewing on an English muffin, while her hands are busy). You can see the quilt that I made for her, sitting on her lap.

And here she is at home, after she recovered from her chemotherapy and 18-hour surgery. She was in remission, and she and David had just returned from a week at Camp Goodtimes West (her hair is still dyed from the carnival). You can see her yellow quilt behind her, on her bed.

Shortly before she passed away, Katie was in her bed, cuddling with our cat, Latte...and she still loved that quilt.

A blanket can be a meaningful and lasting source of comfort, through good times and bad.

A child can be very creative and imaginative, using a blanket as:

a mask (to block out food or hospital smells - chemo makes people super-smell-sensitive);

a shawl around the shoulders or on the lap, for warmth and coziness;

a cover, to hide under and avoid being seen;
a comforter (something to cuddle);

a blinder, to block out light, or sights one doesn't want to see:

a bathrobe;

a bedspread;

a bit of homemade love;

a distraction (Katie's is printed with all of the United States' state flowers, so we would try to pick them out, one by one);
a visual statement about who he or she is.

Blankets can be made with fabrics that relate to a child's hobbies, home town or state, favorite color or subjects, pets or sports. As the variety of fabrics, patterns (and yarns) is endless, so are the possibilities!

Have fun creating coziness!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our First Official Meeting

Last evening, my mom and I attended a New Members meeting with the Guild Association at Seattle Children's Hospital. We learned about other new guilds, met some of their members, and heard stories about why they started their guilds. We learned what they are planning in the way of fund-raising for the hospital. I didn't know that when Seattle Children's was founded, 102 years ago, there was NO major pediatric hospital in existence west of the Mississippi River. The founder (Anna Clise) had a young son who died, and decided to DO SOMETHING about the situation. She founded what is now Seattle Children's Hospital, and started the first guild to support it (click HERE if you would like to read more about the history of the hospital).

I know a lot of bereaved mothers who feel the same way. On certain days, grief lights a fire under me; I can't stand to see another family endure what we have suffered. I want to alleviate - and at best, prevent - that kind of suffering. I want to FIGHT BACK...but I intend to do it with love. I want to bring into the world some of the kind of light that left it when Katie passed away.

I can't bring Katie back, but I believe that we can bring light to others who are suffering. That's the purpose of this guild! Comforters and blankets for COMFORT!

Thanks to Aileen Kelly and the board of the Guild Association for all of your help and support.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How To Donate

I've received questions about how to make a donation to Katie's Comforters Guild. Good news:  you have some choices (I love choices)!

You may write a check to:
Katie's Comforters Guild
c/o Seattle Children's Hospital Guild Association
M/S S 200
P.O. Box 50020
Seattle, WA  98145-5020

You may also donate online. If you have questions about how to do this, please call the Guild Association office at 206-987-2153,
or 800-635-1432 (toll-free).

If you would like to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital, you can go to their website by following this link. There is information about many ways to donate here.

If you would like to donate to the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research at Seattle Children's Hospital, click this link
 or mail a check to: 
Katie Gerstenberger Endowment
c/o Seattle Children's Hospital Foundation
PO Box 50020 / S - 200
Seattle, WA 98145-5020

Thank you for asking!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why Blankets?

Why was Katie's Comforters Guild created to make blankets, instead of raising money to buy blankets?

A store-bought blanket is a nice gift. But the gift of a homemade blanket, with all of the care, love and intention that goes into it, can have a profoundly comforting effect on a person who is in the hospital.

Many patients at Seattle Children's Hospital don't know they are going to be checking in to stay, when they arrive there. Some come in through the Emergency Department, as Katie did; some are airlifted to the hospital. Some are simply coming in for tests, but then a problem is discovered, and they are unable to go home and get items that are comforting and familiar to them. By grace, Katie had thought to bring her quilt from home with her the day we were sent in for tests!
Katie used her quilt as:

*a reminder of home (this photo is during her first round of chemo, in the ICU, with Nurse Heather);

*a tent, to hide under, and sometimes to feign sleep with;

(here she is a few weeks later, checking her email on the SCCA ward)

*a mask, to block smells that bothered her;

her quilt is barely visible --under the big pink and purple fleece blanket from a friend -- in this photo with David and two of the Seattle Seahawks, but it's there!)

*a lap blanket, to warm her legs when in the car or a wheelchair;

*a wrap, like a pashmina, to keep her upper body warm;

*a blinder, to avoid sights she disliked (such as hypodermic needles);

*a bathrobe, over her pjs (this is David, Katie and Nurse April, helping Katie to walk after her surgery);

*a distraction, studying its pattern (the state flowers of the U.S.A.), instead of watching procedures

*a comforter (here she is on the surgery ward, almost ready to go home, nearly 6 weeks after her 18-hours-long surgery).

I'm sure there are lots more possible uses than these. Kids are creative!

Thank you for your interest in Katie's Comforters Guild. Please spread the word!

Where to Deliver Your Blankets

Where do the blankets go once they are made?
To the Volunteer Office at Seattle Children's Hospital. The Volunteer Office is located on the ground floor of the Janet Sinegal Building, accessed by the Giraffe Entrance. Detailed driving directions to the hospital, a map and parking information can be found HERE.

Briefly:  when you turn from Sand Point Way into the driveway of Seattle Children's Hospital, you will start uphill. Take the first right-hand turn, following the drive to a turn-around. There is a large covered area in front of the automatic doors. Go through those doors, and use the hand sanitizer as soon as you are inside, please! *
To your left you will see a "welcome" desk, where you will need to check in, and tell the Greeters why you are visiting. They will direct you to the Volunteer Office, which is also on the left, just past the Greeters' Desk.

Once inside the Volunteer Office, you will be greeted warmly (and your blankets will very likely be complimented!). They will offer you a form to fill out (for your tax-deduction purposes), and they will want to know the name of our Guild. You may leave the blankets with them for distribution to the area of greatest need in the hospital. You have just contributed to the comfort and encouragement of a child, and a family, in a time of great need. Thank you!

Volunteer Office Hours

Monday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: Closed
Phone: 206-987-2155
Please remember: Due to infection control issues, we are only able to give our patients newly purchased/made items. No used (or hand-me-down) blankets, please!

If you cannot get to the hospital in person, you are welcome to mail the blankets to the Volunteer Office, or contact me, and I will try to help you coordinate pick-up and delivery.

*NOTE: If you prefer to park your car and walk in, the Giraffe Parking Garage is a bit further up the driveway, on the left side. If it is a very busy day at the hospital, and you can't find a spot to park in the Giraffe lot, you may drive further up the driveway to the Whale Entrance, and park in the lot there. The Greeter at the desk at the Whale Entrance can give you directions to the Volunteer Office from there. This route involves a longer walk, as well as an elevator trip.
In a pinch, you may telephone the visitors office, and they can send someone out to the Giraffe Entrance turn-around to take the quilts from you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ideas For Members

For those of you who want to share your involvement in Katie's Comforters Guild with your community, we have some ideas.
People and organizations who might want to participate or give support:

  • Girl Scout Troops - Service Projects
  • Camp Fire Girl Groups - Service Projects
  • YMCA
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • After School Prgrams
  • Park District Programs
  • Public and Private School Home-Economics Classes
  • National Honor Society - Service Projects
  • Yarn Stores
  • Fabric Stores
  • Craft Stores
  • Church Groups
  • Quilting Clubs

We have information sheets available for you to use when you talk about the Guild and its mission. Click on the tab that says "Resources" (it will be up soon).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welcome - Here is a Free Sewing Pattern for You to Use

Katie’s Quilt – to make one, you will need:

 1 yard Cotton Flannel

 1 yard Cotton Quilt Fabric, color-coordinated with the flannel

 Wright’s Satin Blanket Binding 4.75 yds. (4.35 m), 100% polyester, color-coordinated with the fabrics

 1 yard of 1/4 to 1” thick Machine-Washable Batting

 Thread to match

Wash and dry both pieces of fabric. If one piece is larger than the other, lay that piece, right-side down, on your work surface. Smooth it out from the center to the edges; place the batting on top of it. Lay the other piece of fabric on top of the batting, right side up; smooth out the wrinkles.
 Pin all 3 layers together in at least 5 places in the middle and around the quilt. Trim the edges so that the 3 pieces are all the same size.

Unwrap the satin binding. Starting at one corner of the quilt, pin the binding around each side, with the points of the pins facing the outside edge of the blanket. When you come to a corner, fold the binding to make the turn (a mitred corner). You are sandwiching the 2 layers of fabric and the batting between the 2 layers of the satin binding. Pin all four sides of the quilt with blanket binding, turning the end of the binding under and overlapping the beginning with the end piece.

Using a strong zigzag stitch, sew along the edges of the binding, all of the way around the blanket. Check the underside of the binding to be sure that you are capturing it as you are sewing the top. When you get to the end of the blanket binding, you may fold the binding under and stitch it closed, or finish it as you like, to make a clean seam.
 In the center of the quilt, stitch by machine (or by hand) where your pins are tacking the three layers in place. Do this at least 5 times, around the quilt, to keep the batting from shifting with wear (and love and washing).

Please be sure to triple-check your quilt for stray pins before you donate it to the Volunteer Office at Seattle Children’s Hospital – this is vitally important for patients’ safety!