Sweet dreams are made of these

John Simmons | May 21, 2019

A young boy poses with his Kiwanis pillowcase.

Three generations of Kiwanis club members and their families displayed their work in July 2018 when the Grand Rapids North Kiwanis Club donated 175 handmade pillowcases to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Mary Free Bed, Michigan's largest pediatric inpatient rehabilitation hospital, serves newborns to adolescents as they recover from traumatic injuries. The Kiwanis of Michigan Foundation helps to support the hospital through a monthly donation.
The pillowcases were the brainchild of the club's secretary, Linda Paige, who had learned about a similar project from Katie Orent at the Golden K of Grand Rapids Kiwanis Club.

“After hearing about it, I was inspired to do the same thing at our club,” says Paige. “I invited Katie to one of our meetings to talk about it and demonstrate how she makes one of the cases.”

Armed with only a simple pattern from Orent, three Grand Rapids members — along with one sister, two wives, one mother, one daughter and two grandchildren — set out to tackle the task of creating enough pillowcases to meet the needs of the 167-bed hospital. Together, they created mini works of art in a rich variety of colors, fabrics and themes.

“There were just so many to choose from,” says Mariah Bruff, a certified child life specialist at the hospital. “There were so many designs, and no duplicates — over one hundred pillowcases designed to meet the needs of all our kids, young and old, boys and girls. It was great to see all that variety.”  

For Grand Rapids North Kiwanis Club member Sarah Pastoor, the pillowcases gave her a chance to work with her then 13-year-old daughter, Maddie, as they both gave back to the community and its children. 

“I've been sewing since I was about nine or 10,” Pastoor says, “and this was an opportunity for Maddie to learn how to sew. She even wrote a personalized message in some of the pillowcases.  As a parent, it's always a great thing for your kids to learn about the world outside their own space, so the chance to brighten a child's stay in the hospital by getting to pick out the fabric and then helping to sew a pillowcase was an opportunity Maddie didn't want to pass up.”

Maddie also became something of a celebrity, being interviewed by two television reporters who covered the pillowcase presentation to the hospital’s patients. And thanks to the productivity of the Grand Rapids North group, future patients also will benefit.

“We will use these pillowcases throughout the year,” says Bruff.  “Every child who comes to Mary Free Bed will be welcomed with a balloon, a blanket and a pillowcase, which they can take with them when they complete their stay.”

Despite the wide variety of pillowcases, one element remained consistent: the tiny label sewn to the inside of each that reads, “Handmade by Kiwanis Grand Rapids North.”

“We added the labels,” says Paige, “so that every time someone washes the pillowcase or happens to look inside, they will see our label there and be reminded about where it came from and who cares about them.”


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