ConKerr Cancer with Damascus 4-H club… helping one pillowcase at a time

When it comes to helping others, the Damascus II 4-H club is a special case – or in this instance – a pillowcase.

The eight-member group has created 101 pillowcases that will be used to cheer up the lives of young people undergoing cancer treatment.

Recently the group was recognized for its efforts at the annual Wellington County 4-H awards in Elora.

Janice Walsh, a leader of the Damascus club, said the annual training earlier this year for the leaders offer a different number of projects that members can participate in.

She said, one of the newer projects suggested was ConKerr Cancer “where participants created pillowcases for children undergoing cancer treatments.”

Walsh noted that in the 4-H Magazine there was a photograph of a group that had done the project in Halton. “They’d make 65 pillowcases. I presented it to my kids and asked if they like to do it.”

She said it was something they eagerly chose to take part in.

“They added, ‘We can do better’.”

The local group began in January, meeting once per week for two hours. During that time, members cut the material, sewed the pillowcases, and showed them at the fair, Walsh said.

Altogether, group members created 101 pillowcases for donation to ConKerr Cancer’s Canadian coordinator, Billy Plows, during Wellington County’s annual awards night.

Walsh said the unique part, is the pillowcases are all coloured in children’s prints.

“Because traditionally, when children are in the hospital, what do they end up with – white. These are used to brighten their rooms.”

Walsh noted that earlier, Plows had said if children are having a difficult day, staff may bribe them with one, or turn it into a type of a game.

Most of the pillowcases will go to Sick Kids Hospital, in Toronto.

Wellington County  4-H president Carol Pollock was pleased to have Walsh along with leader Susan Shaw and the members of their  4-H club make their presentation to Plows that night.

The first part of the presentation was done in the form of a skit, with members taking turns describing the process from start to finish.

Each member took turns offering individual comments, but there was a local tie-in as well.

Member Ellen Shaw said, “When I was 4, I was diagnosed with leukemia and was treated at the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.”

Members then listed each step of the way.

“We had a suggestion.”

“How would you like to do a sewing club where we make colourful pillowcases for children being treated for cancer.”

“We had an inspiration.”

“We had a goal.”

“We were shown an article about the group in Halton which had created 65 pillowcases.”

“We spread the word that we needed donations of colourful children-oriented fabrics.

“We soon acquired lots of fabric and chose colour combinations.”

“We learned to use a rotary cutter; we had a cutting team working every evening.”

“We rolled them up and pinned them up in the hotdog method.”

“We pinned, we sewed, we pressed.”

“We sewed, we ripped out some, and sewed again.”

“We kept running totals of what we had accomplished.”

“We completed 101 pillow cases and reached our goal.”

Plows offered a “wonderful thank you to the young people here.”

She noted that she had only recently taken over the coordinator’s role for ConKerr Cancer.

“This is the first event I’ve come to” (in this capacity).

Plows offered a bit of history on the project.

“ConKerr Cancer was started by Cindy Kerr in the United States, whose son, Ryan, was suffering from cancer.”

“To make his visits to the hospital a little bit more pleasant, she presented him with a colourful pillowcase for each of his visits.”

Plows said “As time went on, people were excited about what pillowcase he would bring with him for his next visit. It grew from there. People started making pillowcases for other children at the hospital. It then moved to other hospitals in the U.S.”

Plows said the Toronto chapter was “the first chapter of ConKerr Cancer in Canada.

“We work with Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, and there is also a chapter which works with McMaster Hospital as well. We have wonderful volunteers such as the young people here, who make the pillowcases for us. I collect them and store them at my house.”

Often Plows stores up to 700 pillowcases in her home, then when she is called, she will deliver the types of pillowcases needed.

When she gets emails or phone calls from the Oncology Unit in Toronto, Plows delivers the items to the hospital where the oncology team gives them for each child for every visit.

“Not just once … but for as many visits as they come in for … they will get a pillowcase.”

“It’s an ongoing job for our volunteers. We’re always looking for new volunteers.

She added she is one of those volunteers, spending time making pillowcases as well.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see the smiles on the children’s faces when they are presented with their pillowcases”

“It does make their lives a little bit happier at a difficult point in their lives.”

Kirsten Allsop said that “on behalf of the Damascus II sewing club, we are honoured to present 101 pillowcases for Sick Kids cancer patient to Billie Plows the Canadian coordinator of ConKerr Canada.”

For more information about contact Billie Plows by email at