Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blessings from Bonnie P.

Our guild is blessed to have Bonnie P. as a member. She is an avid quilter whose work you have likely seen here before. She recently donated six quilts and a fleece blanket for our guild to give to the hospital.

Bonnie is the one who makes her own fabric labels and sews them into the quilts and blankets. She makes one label for our guild, and one of a frog, and each one of her creations sports this personal touch.
Speaking of sports, check out the football blanket on the left!
Detail of the pink pinwheel & striped quilt
I wish this photo was clearer. It has a strip quilt, a fleece blanket with braided trim and a sweet beach print. See details below.
Yummy colors and fabric combinations
Adorable old-fashioned prints, framed off-set in a cheerful background
Bonnie has offered to help me go through the bountiful fabric which has been donated to our guild, so that it can be organized and more easily accessed. It can be overwhelming to a beginning quilter, and Bonnie's expertise will be very welcome indeed.

Thank you, Bonnie!
and special thanks to Cami H. for cutting fringe into nine donated holiday-themed fleece blankets! Every bit of time, talent and treasure helps us to bring comfort to children who are in the hospital. It's especially needed for those who are sick during the holidays.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week included more bounty. Here is a batch of eight adorable fleece blankets which were generously donated by our neighbor, Cami, who is a great supporter of our guild.
Soft, cozy & fun
Over the weekend following Thanksgiving, Gregg and I made a trip up to Port Townsend. I called Lucile & Noble, whose home is on the way to P.T. They welcomed us to stop by, so we delivered a batch of satin blanket binding and fabric to them, and they gave us a dozen beautiful quilts!
Yummy colors
Cheerful, fun fabrics
Soft flannels and cotton, satin blanket binding and fleece - all add up to comfort for sick children!
Thank you, Cami, 
Lucile & Noble! 
We are truly thankful for you!

Monday, November 26, 2012


Just before Thanksgiving, I received a package from a generous woman whom I've never met in person.
Aren't these adorable?
Heather N. is a blogger who I met online through another dear blogging friend (Elizabeth). Heather and her family live in California, and she is very familiar with the pediatric cancer journey, because her adorable youngest child, Zoey, is a survivor. Even though she leads an extremely active, demanding and busy life, Heather took the time to send us a box of adorable fleece blankets (photo above), and some soft, bright quilt tops which are ready to finish (see below).
 What a blessing, just in time for the holidays.
 Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, Heather!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thank You, Alma Mater!

Last summer, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Sally James (a Seattle writer) for the alumni magazine of Pomona College.  I spent my freshman and sophomore years as a Sagehen, and there are days when I seriously regret transferring to another college. When we took David to Pomona for a visit, I looked at it from a completely different perspective – and wished I had stayed on to major in English or journalism.

After “Because of Katie” was published, I contacted the magazine’s editor, Mark Kendall, to let him know that I had written a book. The magazine has a page devoted to alumni publications, and I hoped my book would be included there. Mark went beyond that, to ask me not only about the book, but also about our journey with Katie, and what I have been doing since that time. He kindly decided to tell the story of Katie's Comforters Guild in an article in the alumni section, including photographs, rather than in a paragraph on the “book*marks” page.  The result arrived in my mailbox yesterday.
You can read it here:
http://magazine.pomona.edu/2012/fall/sewing-comfort/ ,
and here is one of the photographs from the article (courtesy of Larry Steagall of the Kitsap Sun newspaper).
The article even mentions Lucile!

I'm deeply thankful to Pomona College, Mark Kendall and Sally James for publishing this article about our guild.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Calling Experienced Quilters!

Calling all experienced quilters/sewing friends:
we have been given a collection of absolutely lovely quilt tops that need experienced hands to finish them. If you or someone you know is willing and able to do this, we plan to auction these beauties to support our work, once they are finished.

Here are the gifts we've received from Kathy W., from her late mother's incredible "stash:"
Three lovely quilt tops
The quilt on the right is made of these elements. Check out the chicken mash bag! It's from Kansas. I think this quilt top may be something historic - and really special.
This quilt is made from hexagons - individual hexagons, each one made of two pieces of cotten, filled with a piece of flannel, and then sewn to six other hexagons - then incorporated into the quilt top. Kathy donated several assembled hexagon flowers, along with some of the individual pieces, cut and ready to sew. Complex and original - just waiting to be finished!
Part of a fan type of quilt. It's even signed in embroidery in the center, with more pieces ready to finish.
Beautiful squares - unique.
This photo doesn't do justice to these squares. They are super soft, and I've never seen a pattern like it before. There are quite a few of these.
More assembled squares, waiting to be made into a quilt
A top and some individual pieces; very interesting patterns!
Awesome Alaska scene on the left; beautiful diamond/squares on the right
Close-up of the Alaskan quilt
Close-up of diamonds
If any one of these quilts takes your fancy, leave a comment or email me and you are welcome to finish it! This bounty deserves to be finished and enjoyed.
Thank you, Kathy W. and family, for the gift of your mother's beautiful handiwork.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thank you, Liberty Bay Knitters!

Our guild's friend, Suzanne Droppert, owner of Liberty Bay Books, sent a message last week that she had some new blankets for us, donated by the Liberty Bay Books knitting group. These kind ladies work quietly and with no fanfare, donating blankets here and there through out the year to comfort children. This batch, delivered by friend and neighbor Cami, is sure to please.
Those three fleece blankets are cozy as can be, and will be perfect for little babies in the NICU. The crocheted blanket is so soft, it feels like cashmere!
Thank you, Liberty Bay Knitters!
REMINDERI have boxes and bags of beautiful, brand-new fabric for those of you who wish to sew. Please contact me so that together, we can turn it into comfort for patients at Seattle Children's Hospital - the need is great!
 Thank you!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Donations & A Day of Learning with Lucile

Part of donation from Jan and Duane S.
 Last week, I met with Jan & Duane S. in Seattle to pick up a very generous donation of nearly 10 bags of fabric and quilting books - about 75 books! What bounty of gorgeous fabric and inspiring pattern ideas. These gifts will make it easy to supply our quilters for some time to come. Thank you, Jan and Duane!
Lucile and two of her beautiful quilts
I asked Lucile if she would come and teach me more about quilting. Lucile is very, very good at sewing, as you will know if you read this blog. She knows how to do so much with a sewing machine and a serger! I wanted to be able to take some of our small pieces of fabric and make them into larger pieces so that they would be easier to work with, especially for our beginning quilters - or for those who don't like working with smaller pieces. They are lovely and in perfect condition; they just take more time to piece and sew and iron.

Lucile knows just what to do. She brought samples which she had made, so that she could not just TELL me, but SHOW me how to do it. She is a natural teacher. It was fun and I did get the hang of some simple steps.

Lucile brought two different squares which she had prepared. She had cut two square pieces of fabric into triangles, swapped them and sewed them back into squares. She showed me how to select and measure and cut and sew a border around the squares...and then do it again and again. Here is the finished quilt top.
Quilt top started by Lucile, finished by me (taught by Lucile)
 You can see that there are three different borders around those triangles/squares.

 Here are 26 more quilts that Lucile & Noble delivered to us for the patients at Seattle Children's Hospital! 
26 more from Lucile!
Thank you, Lucile & Noble!

Today, I met Kathy W. and picked up nine boxes and nine bags of gorgeous fabric. Some of it has already been made into quilt tops by Kathy's talented (late) mother. There is every conceivable color in this stash. It filled my SUV. Thank you, Kathy! We now have so much fabric that I can hardly walk into our family room.

So here is your part: please consider sewing a blanket or quilt for Katie's Comforters Guild to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital. If you don't sew, please ask your friends and family who do sew if they would like to either sew with/for us, or join or guild and sew with/for us. The hospital is nearly out of blankets and Lucile makes a quilt every day as it is! Please help us to turn this bounty of beautiful fabric into comfort for sick children! Thank you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thank You for Listening Generously

“When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.”
Rachel Naomi Remen

I rarely write postings for all of my blogs at the same time, but today, I am doing just that. If you visit any of my blogs (www.karengberger.blogspot.com , www.katiescomfortersguild.blogspot.com , www.katiegerstenbergerendowment.blogspot.com  and www.abundantlivingaftercatastrophe.wordpress.com ) this is what you will find.

It’s been a deeply moving season here. The end of summer brings with it memories of Katie’s passing (August 16th), my parents’ anniversary (this year they marked 60 years of marriage on August 17th), the start of the school year (David is a junior in college, studying in Italy for a semester; Katie should be a senior in high school, looking at college choices and enjoying her last year at home with friends – but she is not). It also marks the anniversary of the start of her illness, her diagnosis, and the 10 months which were a kind of living hell, leading to her passing. The 10th of October, the day we entered the hospital “for tests” and didn’t come out for months; October 13th, the day we found out that it was cancer (though not what type) and Katie’s first round of chemotherapy began.

Gregg let me know during this time that he is not comfortable hearing the news, in detail, of all of my involvement in the world of cancer. He can take only so much of it. My work does not give him solace the way it does me; it simply reminds him of what took our daughter away. When I asked him if the advances in research, cures and awareness make him feel better, he replied, “No.” None of it will bring Katie back, so it’s not a comfort to him. Even though it comforts me, I need to filter some of what I ask him to participate in. Fair enough.

Shortly after my book reading event at Eagle Harbor Books in September, Gregg and I attended the Ben Towne Foundation’s annual BENefit. We were “table captains,” which really means that we gathered interested family and friends and all sat together for dinner. The Foundation makes it so easy to “host” a table that I wouldn’t feel right calling it “hosting.” That was the second cancer-related event in a month’s time, but Gregg loves the Townes and wants to support the Foundation.

At the BENefit, Dr. Michael Jensen announced that his work on relapsed leukemia has been given approval by the FDA to move into clinical trials. That means that children here in Seattle who have no other hope than a miracle have a chance at that miracle; they can enter a clinical trial using their own re-engineered T-cells to fight their own cancer. It will begin sometime in the next few weeks.

This announcement brought our table to tears. We were sitting with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, as well as with two other couples who are friends – both of whom have watched their own daughters die from brain cancer. Three sets of bereaved parents heard the news together. It was a dramatic moment, and one that has truly changed my life.

I finally feel relief.
I feel relief, for the first time since Katie died.

Since Katie died, I have felt like the parent of a murdered child. I have felt that the murderer is “at large,” and beyond the capacity of “law-enforcement” to catch. It hurts. I feel it’s my duty as her mother to catch her killer and bring him to justice. I didn’t realize that so much of my work and energy has been directed to catching this killer – but it has.

After the BENefit, several family members and friends joined me for a tour of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. At the end of the tour, I took Dr. Jensen aside and thanked him. I told him that for the first time since Katie’s passing, I feel as if I can relax. I know that the killer is now identified. We may not have him on death row yet, but his whereabouts are known, and he is in the crosshairs of the law. They are going to catch him, and stop him from killing other children (and adults). This is Dr. Jensen’s mission, and it is now beginning to be available to patients (not just lab mice).

On the tour, my dad asked Dr. Jensen two important questions (and I think I heard the answers correctly):
1)   How much does it cost annually to do what you are doing?
Answer: $1.5 million
2)   How much do you need annually to be able to conduct experiments on the cancers you want to cure next?
Answer: $15 million.

Friends, what is being spent on the next election makes this sum look positively PALTRY. This research has the potential to cure children AND adults. If you know anyone who can contribute to it, please invite them to contact me or the Ben Towne Center. I will be happy to effect an introduction.

What I want most to share with you is the fact that I feel a new freedom now. The baton is in Dr. Jensen’s hands (and those of his colleagues, some of whom were part of Katie’s care team). I will continue to do my best to raise awareness and financial support, but I can finally let go of this part of my work, because it is being done by the professionals. And some of the thanks for that goes to Carin and Jeff Towne, and the memory of their precious son, Ben.

I wasn't aware that I was holding my breath for this to happen, but I have been…and I can rest now. Thank God that prayers are being answered! The timing was not sufficient to save Katie’s life, but I believe that the cure will be part of her legacy.

Thank you for reading my blogs, for commenting, for supporting our family through this time. Though we will never be “over it,” your listening, caring and praying has been part of our healing process. That process continues - and finding a cure for cancer is surely a part of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Donations from Dottie

This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Dottie A.
Linda & her mother, Dottie
Dottie is the mother of one of my friends from Seattle Children's Hospital (Linda).

Linda made a big difference in my life by the way she took care of Katie's physical therapy needs, as well as her emotional needs. I wrote about it in my book, "Because of Katie." When Dottie came to visit Linda, they came to our small town, and we spent several very pleasant hours together.

Dottie is a VERY talented quilter. Very talented.
She shared photos of some of her quilts, and they are lovely. We had a lot of fun talking about quilting, visiting our local fabric store and talking about life in general.

Dottie decided to make quilts for our guild, even though she lives in another state. In the following videos, she shows what she has made; Linda is bringing them back with her from Dottie's home.
I can't get the last one to load...*RATS* Well, you can get the idea from the first two!
Thank you for making these quilts, Dottie!
Thank you for delivering them, Linda!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Donation of Fabric

Thank you, Tomoko, 
for sending this box of lovely fabric and 
the Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores gift card! 
What a blessing this will be to our guild's quilters!

Donations like this one are part of our "economy of grace," and they help us continue to do our work, since we don't actively seek financial support. We are thankful!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

As September Was Winding Down...

...there was a lot of activity in Katie's Comforters Guild!
The last week of the September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, saw your president working for awareness and support.

On Sunday, September 23rd, I made a presentation about my book, about our guild and about childhood cancer research at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island, WA. There is news about this event on both of my other blogs:
Gberger and 
abundant living after catastrophe .

I brought Katie's quilt with me to help "show and tell," and Donna's and Sandy's quilt (see the previous posting) was hanging on display in the front window of the store for a week, behind the poster of my book's cover. It provided a wonderful illustration of our guild's mission, and what our talented, generous members and friends do!
Several members and friends of our guild were in attendance at this event, and one of them was Bonnie P. She brought with her a new half-dozen quilts to donate to the guild. Here they are:
Awesome tie-dye center with borders and Bonnie's trademark "FROG" label
This is a photo of two together - a sunshine theme and a dinosaur theme
Beautiful batik
Handkerchief-style print
Anchors aweigh with mattress-ticking stripes
Thank you, Bonnie!

The day after this event, I was invited to speak to a group of quilters who meet to sew for charity. They wanted to know more about our guild, so I took Katie's comforter and Donna's and Sandy's quilt, along with some brochures, and spoke to them. They have decided to sew a donation for us, and I'm so thankful!

On Friday, September 28th, Dr. Michael Jensen, director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research announced at the annual Ben Towne Foundation BENefit that the FDA has given permission for clinical trials to commence using Dr. Jensen's T-cell therapy in treating childhood cancer. This is wonderful news! Treatment with little side effects and no harm done to patients is a dream-coming-true. The Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research supports the Jensen Laboratory, and their work holds great promise.

September was an awesome month for progress in pediatric cancer awareness, research and comfort. Thank you for all you do to help make this possible!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Gift

I have so much to share with you that I need more than one posting. This has been an eventful time, but I haven't had time to share it with you here until now.

Our guild's friends Donna Haggard and Sandy Van De Putte have been busy making magic. You might remember Donna and Sandy's beautiful gift to our guild of a hand-made quilt a while back. Donna is a master-quilter and talented at hand-sewing; Sandy is a gifted teacher and quilter herself. Together, they make a fabulous team.

Donna's adult daughter had the same kind of cancer that Katie had. It manifested differently, but the outcome was the same. After Donna & Sandy donated a quilt to us in memory of Donna's daughter, Donna herself was diagnosed with cancer. Unbelievable, but true.

In the midst of her treatment, dear Donna crocheted blankets for our guild. When she finished her treatment, she and Sandy got together and made magic happen. They created a quilt which won BEST OF CATEGORY at the KITSAP COUNTY FAIR, and then they donated it to our guild so we can auction it off to raise funds! That kind of generosity is rare and beautiful, as is the quilt:
Donna on the left, Sandy on the right
Your president with Donna, Sandy and that gorgeous quilt
Another detail - check out the quilting!
Another view
This beauty is going to be available for auction sometime in the future. I will keep you posted here when this is in the works. Until then,  
THANK YOU, Donna and Sandy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gratitude and Generosity

We have had quite a blessed couple of weeks here at Katie's Comforters Guild. We're giving thanks for the generosity of our members and friends, as well as for those who have received the gift of one of our quilts and have let us know what it means to them.

First, the recent donations:
Two fleece beauties from Guild member Mary R.:
From Guild Member (& Gratitude Ambassadress) Mary R.
 Four crocheted lovelies from Katie's Comforters Guild friend Sonia B.:
From Sonia B. (aunt of Katie's aunt Cheri)
 and 44 (yes, that is forty-four)  
new quilts and fleece blankets from Lucile & Noble N.!
Four of Lucile's latest creations...
and four more...
seven of the fleece blankets Lucile made...
and four more fleece!
Did you know that Lucile has donated 632 blankets since her first donation in September of 2010?
We received a note on our Guild's facebook page (check us out there!) from a grateful mother of two children who have been admitted to Seattle Children's Hospital at different times. Fortunately, both of her children are fine now, but the time of their admission was a scary one.

Kari tells, in her own words, what our blankets/quilts mean to her:
"Thank you so much for your guild. This week I had the worst night of my life, when my 2 year old daughter was admitted to the hospital for croup. Your dog and cat quilt brightened her spirits. She loved it and slept with it. Thank you so much for all your efforts."
She goes on to say:
"This unfortunately was not our first hospital stay in our family. My son was hospitalized a year and a half ago with a strep B infection at age 4. He received a Linus blanket from your guild that still lays at the base of his bed. He looks
back fondly although I remember it otherwise, staying at the hospital and receiving his blanket. You can imagine how excited he was to greet his sister when she came home with her beautiful quilt. I think it is such a gift you all are giving young children, a positive attachment to an otherwise traumatic experience. I truly appreciate all the love you put in to your quilts. It has really made a difference with my children."
Thank you to every one of our members and friends for your generosity, creativity and compassion!
 Thank you, Kari, for letting us know about our Guild's positive impact on your family!

Monday, August 27, 2012

One Big KISS at the Ballpark

Here is a way to support Seattle Children's Hospital and enjoy a baseball game at the same time: