A college student and a cancer patient sat side by side as they opened a colorful quilt and spread it across their laps.
“I hope you like it,” said Kassie Nguyen, a fashion design student at Grand Rapids Community College.
Mayra Eduardo, a 44-year-old breast cancer survivor, ran her hands across the cheerful blue and red fabric.
“It’s beautiful,” she said softly. Nguyen smiled.
The meeting of quilt, student and patient unfolded recently at the Spectrum Health Cancer Center at Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, thanks to a service learning project in a fashion design class at Grand Rapids Community College.
The students designed and stitched quilts for patients undergoing treatment for cancer. On a recent wintery afternoon, some of the students met the people who would take home their quilts.
Nguyen explained the thought behind the colors and design of Eduardo’s quilt.
She chose a blue fabric covered with cherries because she liked the retro look and the way it evoked the warmth of summer. In the center, she created a heart from blocks of red polka dot fabric.
And in the middle of that heart, she added a shimmery bonus—pockets covered with translucent fabric and filled with red flower petals and gems.
Eduardo marveled over the design and colors. A stage 4 breast cancer survivor in remission since August, Eduardo said she was touched by the kindness shown by Nguyen and the other students.
“It’s amazing how something like cancer can bring so many people together, to work together spreading human love,” she said.
“I will cherish this.”
‘This means a lot’
Pamela Wright beamed as she received the quilt Kayla Block created for her.
Block, an interior design student, created her quilt from a variety of interior fabrics—velvet, corduroy, moire and jacquard—all in a rich, red color.
“The patterns are all different, but they match. They play off each other well,” she said. “It’s a very heavy-duty quilt. It should keep you warm.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Wright said. “People don’t realize when you are getting treatment how cold you are. It’s always nice to have a blanket you can throw over you.”
Wright, who is receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, became tearful as she talked about the gift.
“This is amazing,” she said. “I don’t think they realize what it means. It means a lot—it really does.”
Grand Rapids Community College professor Margie Erlandson agreed.
“Just remember, love was sewn into that,” she said.
This is the fourth time Erlandson has led students in the quilt-making project. Her bout with breast cancer in 2013 inspired her to create the assignment as a way to extend the students’ classroom experiences into the community.
Some of the students created quilts for children, and those creations were delivered to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital across the street, to be given to the children later.
Sara Duff created a quilt with large colorful puzzle pieces, set on a soft, white background. Nicole Kunnen pieced together shades of soft pink and gray and white for her child-friendly creation.
Making the quilts for patients was rewarding, the students said.
“It felt very selfless,” Kunnen said. “Especially at the holidays.”