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Stitching together comfort and warmth

Fran Henney and fellow quilters have come together to donate 100 homemade quilts to Hospice patients in the chemotherapy and palliative care units of Nanaimo Hospital.  - CANDACE WU PHOTO
Fran Henney and fellow quilters have come together to donate 100 homemade quilts to Hospice patients in the chemotherapy and palliative care units of Nanaimo Hospital.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

A small group of local quilters is making a big difference, one stitch at a time.

"Our goal is to donate 100 quilts to Hospice by the end of May," said Fran Henney, one of five avid quilters taking part in a one-time project deemed "Shannon's Quilts."

Henney said the project is "all for Shannon MacKay," a friend who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer, but not before leaving a huge mark on every single person she touched and the community at large.

Henney, holding back tears, described her friend as "generous, genuine and inspirational — somebody who never complained about the hand she was dealt and a person who quickly became our hero."

"This project is to honour Shannon," she said, standing alongside five stacks of neatly folded quilts piled upon one another, each beautiful in its own right, brimming with different patterns and color schemes—but all bound by one common logo stitched in the corner which reads: "Shannon's Quilts, to give love, comfort and warmth."

Henney explained that in the fall of 2013 Shannon told her quilting counterparts about how much other chemotherapy patients enjoyed quilts donated by the Parksville Quilthouse Quilter Guild, the organization which brought them all together.

The Guild has about 300 members who are active and give back to the community throughout the year with membership from all over the mid-Island area.

A few months later Henney and Sue Jubb were visiting Shannon in palliative care; they were chatting and quilting as per usual.

"I was working on a block and the nurse asked what I was doing so I told her it was to become a quilt," she said. "The nurse went on to say how much the patients loved these quilts and whenever they had extras they let families take them home."

The nurse said the quilts mean a lot to families because "often they are the last things their loved ones used," however, they don't always have enough to give away.

And that was it—what Henney called the "light bulb moment."

On Jan. 27 she rallied up a small but powerful group of friends— Jubb, Dawna Winkelaar, Charlotte Hitchin and Lynn Foreman—and together the five women set out to spread compassion the best way they know how: by quilting.

The core group sent out an invitation via e-mail to other quilters that knew Shannon, asking for a donation of a quilt to honor Shannon.

The response has been  very positive with many quilters donating more than one quilt, and promises of many more to come.

All quilts will be donated to Hospice to be given to patients in chemotherapy and palliative care units of Nanaimo Hospital.

To date 65 quilts have been received.

Just over a week later, on Feb. 8 the group surprised Shannon by presenting her with 10 handmade quilts each with her name on it.

Additionally, they told Shannon she was the heart and soul of their project to donate 100 quilts to Hospice.

"Shannon was so happy and overwhelmed," recalled Henney. "We covered her in quilts and it was just a really good day."

Shannon passed away one week later, but her kindness and generosity will be carried on by the many people she touched and by projects like Shannon's Quilts.

"Our goal is to reach 100 by the end of May," said Henney. "We feel privileged that we can give a tribute to Shannon as well as give back to the community—we have all been touched by cancer, either ourselves, a friend or a loved one."

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