Ryan’s Case for Smiles is a worldwide not for profit that is dedicated to helping kids feel better to heal better through donations of comforting, handmade pillowcases. Cindy Kerr created the organization after her son Ryan was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at the age of twelve. Cindy was a quilter and wanted to brighten up her son’s room while he was in the hospital so she started sewing him bright, cheerful pillowcases. As most of us sewists know you can never ever make one of anything cute and fun so Cindy started making pillowcases for all the kids who were on the oncology unit along with Ryan. She saw what a huge impact these pillowcases had on kids and decided to see if she could help kids at other hospitals too. Eleven years later Ryan’s Case for Smiles has delivered over 1.7 million pillowcases worldwide. We donate more than 200,000 pillowcases yearly to children at over 360 hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses, camps and Hospices.
Our chapter in British Columbia was started 8 years ago while I was juggling life with a houseful of busy little boys and looking for a way to help out other kids. I found out about Ryan’s Case for Smiles on an online sewing forum and had emailed the charity looking for the contact of a local coordinator I could drop off pillowcases with. I heard back from Cindy and found out there were no coordinators in Western Canada. My plan of donating a dozen pillowcases quickly turned into jumping in as a coordinator and informing my Mom we were starting a chapter in British Columbia. Our chapter now donates over 1,000 pillowcases a year to BC Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Abbotsford Hospital and Camp Goodtimes.
We are always needing help to keep up our donation numbers. The best way to help is by sewing up a pillowcase. If you have a bit of spare time one day you can get a few pillowcases done in under an hour. If you have any sewing friends and are up for organizing a sewing day you can get a big stack of pillowcases done in just a few hours. If you are a teenager who is looking to fill volunteer or community hours, sewing pillowcases is a great way to get those hours. I frequently sew with elementary school classes as well and the kids always do an amazing job and are so excited to find a way to help kids just like them. They’re also a fantastic project for Guiding and Scouting groups to earn their service badges.
If you don’t have the time to sew we can always put fabric donations to good use. As a bonus when you clear off some room on your shelves by donating fabric to us you have an excuse to go buy more fabric! We ask that pillowcases only be made of cotton wovens or flannel. Pretty much any print or solid fabric is great. The places we donate to ask for no religious themes and nothing with skulls. We donate a huge amount of Christmas/winter and Halloween pillowcases every year so holiday themed pillowcases or fabric are always needed. Other donations that are helpful are colour catchers, rotary blades, thread and large (26.8cm x 27.3cm) size Ziploc plastic bags. Monetary donations are also welcomed as it costs about $11.00 to make each pillowcase.
If you don’t have a favorite pillowcase pattern already here are a few great tutorials you can check out. You don’t have to specifically use any of these. They just give you a good idea of size and different ways they can be made. If you already have a pillowcase pattern you love to use or if you find a tutorial online that works better for you go with it! The pillowcases just need to fit over a standard size pillow. You do not have to pre wash your fabrics.
Tutorial from Happy Okapi
Tutorial from Case For Smiles (PDF)
Tutorial from Fish Stick Designs (PDF)
Each pillowcase gives a child something soft to snuggle while reminding them of the comforts of home. They help brighten up hospital rooms, spread some much needed cheer and help kids feel more at ease while undergoing treatments and surgeries. I have received stories of pillowcases having to be overnighted to the hospital after being left at home because a little one refused to go into treatment without it under their head, parents having to drive hours and hours home to retrieve a misplaced pillowcase, threadbare pillowcases that have literally been loved to pieces and pillowcases that have been a huge source of comfort for hundreds and hundreds of hard days and nights for some amazingly strong kids. One yard of fabric, 15 minutes of your time and a bit of love can make an incredible difference to people who need a little extra love during some tough days and nights.
More info can be found at caseforsmiles.org. If you need any extra help or have any questions you can email Kelsey at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are part of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and have any pillowcases made up you can bring them to any meeting and hand them off to Kelsey (me!). If I’m not at a meeting you can give pillowcases to Arita or Michelle B, they will collect them.