Russellville Middle School students found a unique way to provide comfort and cheer to local cancer patients.

Students, their parents and teachers will distribute 42 quilts Thursday to Saint Mary’s Regional Health System to be given to cancer patients.

Seventh-grade history teacher Liz Scott and seventh-grade math teacher Becky Westbrook have worked with students during advisory class to create and provide lap quilts for local residents. Students work on the quilts each day during advisory period, which is a nonacademic class period and must keep with their academics in order to work on the quilt project.

Many students had never threaded a needle before beginning the project, yet they became quite skilled at the process of quilt making. Makayla Cotton said she had never sewn before beginning the project this year, but she plans to continue sewing.

“I really hadn’t sewn before,” she said. “My grandmother said she would teach me some day, but she hasn’t. It has been lots of fun and I really like being able to make something for people that really need them.”

The majority of the students were like Cotton — they either had no desire to sew or had little experience with sewing, much less quilting.

“I really wasn’t interested in sewing,” Brooke Owens said. “I really like it more than I thought I would. It’s also really cool to give back to the community.”

More than just learning the art of quilting, these students gained valuable lessons in vocabulary, communication, teamwork, problem solving, time management and extra insight into math and history lessons.

The students cut the fabric, design the pattern, pin together the pieces and quilt the finished blanket together. Upon completion, each students sews a heart label on the quilt with his or her name and a message.

Scott spear-headed the quilting project in 2006,when she moved to the Russellville School district from northwest Arkansas. Scott worked with a nonprofit that made quilts for at risk babies and then became interested in quilts for cancer patients after her own mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2005.

“My brother and I would go to chemotherapy and radiation with my mother,” Scott said. “It was always so cold in the chemotherapy rooms. It has to be kept cold so germs don’t spread, but I noticed my mother’s discomfort and decided this was a worthy project.”

The quilting project is also near and dear to Westbrook. Her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and actually received a quilt made by the students.

“It really is a great project,” Westbrook said. “I still have the quilt they made for my grandmother.”

Scott and Westbrook purchase material themselves and occasionally receive donated money and supplies. Walmart donated money this year and Westbrook said one quilt recipient was so grateful for her lap quilt, she sent gift cards to purchase additional supplies.

Scott joked the quilts made in the math class are always straighter.

“Mrs. Westbrook actually quilts and her students’ quilts are always very symmetrical,” Scott said of the quilts made in Westbrook’s class. “All the students really do a great job and work really hard. It’s amazing to see how excited they get about the project.”

Scott said the students donate an average of 30 quilts each year.

Anyone interested in donating materials may contact the Russellville Middle School at 968-2557.

From – article by Heather Sprinkle.
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