The Year of Transform

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Caring for Others, Stitch by Stitch

Posted: July 26, 2016

By Kim Gannaway

Caring Quilts Day, an annual event at Shepherd of the Valley came to be because of a workshop I was taking back in 1999. The assignment was to create something you were passionate about, and you couldn’t do it just by yourself – you had to create a community to share in your passion.

I came up with a quilting project, which is something I’ve loved to do since college – so far, so good. And, I worked at Target Corporation, so I checked to see if I could donate the quilts to Target House, which is a home-away-from-home for the families of kids who are receiving treatment for life-threatening illnesses at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN. They said yes!

Similar to a Ronald McDonald house, Target House is set up for longer-term care. Families from all over the world can stay for free of charge for as long as they need to – some are there a few weeks or months, some have stayed for a few years. You’ll hear all kinds of languages spoken there. There are 98 apartments with several common areas for the families to interact.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting Target House 3 times while I worked at Target, and it is indeed a very special place. At first, I expected a very depressing place, but it was the opposite. The support, love and care that the staff and the families give each other is very tangible. Sure, there are very sick children with no hair because of their chemo treatments, or scars from surgery, but there is also incredible support there, which is just as important a factor as the medical treatment. The staff and families all speak the same ‘medical’ language and can truly understand what each other is going through. Handing out quilts to the kids is truly one of the highlights of my life.

I needed to involve a community for the project– that means asking people for help, which is not easy for me to do. Can’t I just do it myself? I asked various companies for donations of fabric, batting and thread, as well as asking my local quilt group if they’d be willing to help make the quilts. They all said yes! We were a small group, so I decided to have a special day where lots of people could come and quilt, even those who didn’t know anything about quilting could help with tying knots and making labels. Friends, family, and friends of friends came, and we made about 50 quilts that first year, which was one for every child staying at Target House. We even had a young Girl Scout troop come and help draw the personalized labels – everyone was so enthusiastic! This became a tradition for us too. I was so humbled by everyone’s generosity and willingness to give of their time and talents.

We started the first year that Target House opened back in 1999 and have continued into 2016. We will be delivering about 170 quilts to Target House this year, thanks to the continued generosity of about 45 volunteers. Overall, I estimate we’ve made almost 1,800 quilts over the years. I am still humbled by the enthusiasm of so many – that sense of community is truly a powerful thing.