Hutch School students make pillows for family members

Third annual event sponsored by Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company coincides with United Way Day of Caring
Hutch school pillow stuffing event
Photo by Bo Jungmayer

Alan scooped filling from a cardboard box into a pillowcase held open by a classmate, a grin stretching across his face.

The 15-year-old was making the pillow for his little sister, 13, who is being treated for cancer. He hadn’t told her about it. He wanted it to be a surprise.

“She’ll probably love it,” said Alan, whose family comes from Alaska. “She likes pillows.”

Alan was among almost 20 Hutch School students who participated in a third annual pillow-making event last Friday in conjunction with the United Way’s annual Day of Caring.

Soaring Heart owner finds meaningful way to support Fred Hutch

Mike Schaefer, the owner of Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company in Fremont, started the project after buying his company a few years ago and deciding he wanted to find a meaningful way to support the Hutch. He consulted with Lynette Klein, the Hutch’s senior director of planned giving, and the two came up with the idea.

“I can sit here and write a check in about five minutes,” Schaefer said. “It feels good, but when you spend a couple of hours and do something where people see the direct benefits, it’s a way to demonstrate that we care.

“Knowing that some care and attention went into that pillow that you’re snuggled up with hopefully helps people have a brighter day.”

Students made pillows for family members being treated for cancer

At Hutch School, the event was intensely personal. The students, ranging from kindergarten through high school, were making pillows for family members being treated for cancer. Many live upstairs from the school at Pete Gross House, a 70-unit apartment building in South Lake Union that houses Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patients and their families.

Schaefer provides the materials for the pillows, including cases handsewn at his shop and latex filling made from organic rubber trees grown in Sri Lanka. On Friday, Schaefer and a few employees arrived at the school and unloaded boxes and scales. Work stations were set up in the school’s main room and students took turns holding pillowcases, scooping fill and weighing the pillows.

Personal notes to tuck in with the pillows

In an adjacent room, other students made hand-colored notes to tuck in with the pillows. Later in the day they delivered them, 80 in total, to family members and SCCA patients.

Hutch School Principal Christie Brown said the event is a way for students to do something for family members while getting a hands-on lesson in altruism.

“They’re learning about giving and about how much people appreciate when they do something nice for them.”

Children affected by cancer, Brown said, often wonder what they can do to help. Ask them what they would choose if they could have one magic power, she said, and most opt not for flying, being invisible or any other superhero ability, but to cure cancer.

“This experience has changed them forever,” Brown said.

Over at one of the tables, Aura, a 10-year-old from Vancouver, B.C., was making a pillow for her dad and thought it would make him happy.

“He’ll think it looks nice and he’ll say, ‘Thank you, baby,’ because I made it for him,” she said.

Nearby, 12-year-old Jared held a pillow case while another student filled it. Chunks of latex were strewn over the floor, looking like pounds of crumbled feta cheese. Jared, whose family is from Idaho, was also making a pillow for his dad and said he thought the event was a great idea.

“It’s a day of caring, and every patient needs something,” he said. “It makes them more positive about getting through [treatment] with us helping them.”

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