Empowering Our Girls One Stitch at a Time

March 15, 2012 at 2:48 am (Art Unravelled)

My grandparents, Ralph and Rebecca

When my grandfather moved to this country, he became a tailor. He created beautiful garments. My guess is he was taught to sew by his mother, Reina (who I have a picture of somewhere sewing). He started three sportswear lines named after his three children, Renee Sportswear, Estelle Sportswear, and Mark Sportswear. I suppose he dreamed of passing those skills (and businesses) down from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, like most children, my mother, aunt, and uncle had other plans and all pursued other professions. None of them ever learned to sew. So, last year, when I took up sewing, I inherited my grandfather’s scissors. When I am at my sewing machine, I often imagine him sitting next to me and smiling, whispering under his breath in his beautiful, native Spanish tongue, “hija mia” (my daughter).

Last month, my beautiful daughter, embarked on a project, which truthfully a year ago, I could never have imagined. She and her friend, two Junior Girl Scouts, both nine years old, started working towards their Bronze Award, the highest Girl Scout award a girl at this level can receive. They conceived of a project to help children at UNC Children’s Hospital (one of the girls comes from a long line of Tar Heels). But because of their young age, they were limited as to what they could do. They could host a collection drive, which would meet some of the Bronze Award requirements, but they wanted to do more.

Enter Diane Moore, Founder, President, and Executive Director of Striving For More.  In June of 2008 Diane’s family’s life was tragically turned upside down when her daughter Colleen died of Osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer).  During Colleen’s 9 month battle with this disease, the family had Colleen cared for at three different hospitals and saw distinctly different levels of care in the area of emotional and spiritual support for children and their families. After Colleen died, Diane created Striving for More and has dedicated her life to providing emotional and spiritual support for critically and terminally ill children and their families. Colleen was nine when she died, the same age as my daughter and her friend.

One of the programs Diane’s organization funds at both UNC and Duke is Beads of Courage. Beads of Courage are designed to let children with cancer  commemorate their personal cancer journey. Every time a child has a  procedure—whether a chemotherapy infusion, radiation therapy, bone  marrow aspirate, blood transfusion or other procedures—they receive a  special bead from a member of the medical team to add to their “courage  bead necklace.” During the course of treatment, many kids will receive as many as 1000 beads.

Diane teaching one of the girls about Striving For More.

Diane met with my daughter and her friend to talk about the Beads of Courage program. She explained to them that one thing they could do to help was to make a special bead bag for some of the 500 children undergoing treatment at UNC. Bead bags give children a special place to store the beads that they cherish when they are not able to wear them. They also give them a special way to easily carry them back and forth from the hospital or a special keepsake location to store them while they are off enduring difficult tests or procedures.

It seemed that within days of making contact with Diane, my daughter and her friend had chosen enough fabric to create 100 bead bags (in honor of the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts). The only obstacle standing in both girls’ way was their lack of sewing skills.

On a Sunday afternoon, both girls sat in my dining room for their first sewing lesson. Almost two weeks and fifty-one bags later, I think it is safe to say, that they have graduated and are well on their way to becoming skilled sewers. I have faith that my grandfather, along with Diane’s beautiful daughter, Colleen, are smiling down on them, encouraging them, and empowering them with every stitch.

Sewing a bead bag lining, wearing her gold ribbon supporting childhood cancer and Striving For More.

My daughter has been asking me to teach her how to sew for months. I always felt she was too young, but realize now that I was just being too lazy. We need to empower our children, especially our girls, which is the true meaning of the Girl Scout program in the first place.

It has to be fate that my daughter and her friend stumbled upon a project that represents a marriage between the sewing skills of my grandfather and my own love of beads.

There are 1000 children being treated at UNC Children’s Hospital and Duke Children’s Hospital combined. So far, only about 300 have bead bags. If you or your organization would like more information, or to download free instructions on how to make the bead bags, visit www.striving4more.org.

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