Nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing a child with cancer. While healthy children are able to play outside in the sunshine and fresh air, children with cancer are suffering from this horrible disease while stuck in the confines of dreary hospital rooms. While there is no cure for cancer, what if there was a way to assuage the suffering that these children are going through?
Luyverl Seago, a Dysart resident for over forty years, has been doing just that. Seago has been sewing pillowcases for kids with cancer since December of 2011. "I must have made over 200 pillowcases," said Seago, but she's not tracking.
Seago sews bright and cheerful pillowcases for kids with cancer as a part of ConKerr Cancer, a nonprofit organization whose mission is, "helping children feel special while battling life changing illnesses." ConKerr Cancer was founded in 2002 by Cynthia Kerr, from Pennsylvania, when her son Ryan was battling cancer. She sewed him pillowcases to try to brighten up his hospital room and bring a smile to his face.
Kerr eventually started sewing pillowcases for other children in the oncology unit, even teaching the children how to sew while they were in the hospital, and the project has expanded since then. Sadly, Ryan passed away in 2007 after bravely battling cancer but the project continues to grow in memory of Ryan. Today, there are chapters throughout North America, including Iowa. Volunteers, like Seago, make the mission of ConKerr Cancer possible.
In her younger years, Seago worked for the City of Dysart, mowing the grass and maintaining the park, the pool, the community building, and the bike trail. At 75 years old, Seago is limited to what she can do because of her health and failing eye sight. This is where the sewing has become a lifesaver. "It helps pass the time away, or as my kids say, 'keeps Ma off the street.' I used to run the streets with the lawn mower," she said with a chuckle.
When Seago's daughter's mother in law passed away, leaving closets of full of fabric, they didn't know what to do with it all, but didn't want it to go to waste. And this is where ConKerr Cancer came in.
Seago has always loved to sew. She sewed her children's clothes as they were growing up and, even today, continues to sew tote bags, table runners, and hot pads. Her kitchen, which doubles as her sewing room, is strewn with brightly colored fabric. Just recently, "a good fairy," who wishes to remain anonymous, "came to give me a few pieces of fabric," said Seago, with a smile. There are piles of fabric printed with Sponge Bob, fairies, fish, John Deere tractors, and brightly colored shoes, all waiting to be transformed into a pillow case to brighten a suffering child's day.
The organization is based on volunteerism and compassion. "It is made possible by great volunteers like Mrs. Seago. She has a great heart and is a tremendous sewer. She has created many, many smiles for the kids!" said Brenda Cummer, Regional Coordinator for Iowa with ConKerr Cancer. "Currently in Iowa we have delivered 2,500 pillowcases to University of Iowa Children's Hospital, Blank Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald houses in Iowa City and Des Moines, and Children's Cancer Connection," Cummer said.
While Seago is one of the many volunteers that sew the pillowcases, there are many more volunteers performing different tasks to help complete the process. "My daughter takes the pillowcases to a fabric store in Waverly and Brenda Cummer picks them up. Brenda has volunteers that wash, iron and sanitize the pillowcases before they send them to the kids. They go to the Iowa City and Des Moines cancer units for kids once a month," Seago said.
Sewing pillowcases not only brings smiles to children's faces, but it is also a way for Seago keep busy with volunteer work. "I am running out of material right now. I've been buying material but I can't afford to keep doing that. I'm hoping that I will be able find some donations of fabric. They want things that kids or teenagers will like," said Seago.
Seago is looking for donations of one yard pieces of 100% cotton fabric so that she can continue to donate her time to sew pillowcases. She is looking for bright and cheerful fabrics for boys and girls, including teenagers. Please drop off any donations at the Dysart Reporter at 317 Main, or to Luyverl Seago herself at 307 Grant Street in Dysart. For more information, visit the website www.ConKerrCancer.org.