Santa doesn’t always travel by sleigh. Sometimes, holiday goodwill takes alternate forms of transportation, including the white passenger van that recently pulled into the parking lot at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center.

Yoncalla High School teacher Chelsea Ross and two of her students climbed out and began unloading bags of pillows and blankets, handmade by students at the school as gifts for patients.

“It’s heartwarming. Their thoughtfulness means more than mere words can say,” says Kathy Baker, who was pleasantly surprised when Ross and her students delivered the items to WVCI’s infusion room.

Gifts of comfort
Students learned how to sew the blankets and pillows through Yoncalla High School’s two-day Eagle Exploration program, which is held prior to Thanksgiving break and teaches students a variety of skills, including sewing, that are not offered during the regular school day.

“We don’t have the funding to be able to offer home economics or a class that would allow them to learn how to sew or learn how to do a basic stitch,” Ross says. “A project like this that teaches them those skills and allows them to give back to their community makes an even bigger difference.”

Along with the pillows and blankets created from brightly colored, soft materials, students also included word games and puzzles to help patients pass the time during treatment, along with pencils, tissues and handwritten letters offering encouragement.

“In the letters, we told them that we care about them and that we’re fighting for them, that they’re strong and they can make it through this,” says senior Aubri Timmons.

“It’s surprising, because while the pillows and blankets are just a little thing, it can make a huge difference in someone’s day,” junior Andrea Santos says.

“To have anything come into the room that is bright and warm, makes it that much easier for patients to handle having treatment,” WVCI patient navigator Andrea Wolf says. “We appreciate any little piece of cheer that the community delivers. It’s amazing.”

During their visit to WVCI, Ross and her students had the opportunity to talk with Kathy Baker about their project and offer her a pillow while she received her immunotherapy infusion to treat her lung cancer. For Kathy, the students’ act of kindness was both well-received and touching.

“Showing kindness in whatever way to others is very needed in this world today,” Kathy says. “And this small gesture, whatever size that you can show to one another, that’s what our world needs more of.”

A project of caring
In all, students created and delivered approximately 30 pillows and blankets to patients at WVCI. Ross hopes they can do even more next year and deliver some of their creations to young patients at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

This students project was funded through a small grant by the Delta Kappa Gamma Society chapter in Roseburg, a nonprofit organization that supports educators and excellence in education.

If you would like to help support this student project, donations for materials can be made to Yoncalla High School.