Ryan's Case for Smiles is one of the few volunteer organizations solely dedicated to helping sick children cope with the stress of life-changing illnesses and injuries.
They provide children with decorative pillowcases that helps give them an emotional boost and reminds them they are not defined by their illness. This provides the children with a stress reliever and distraction. Distractions and hope enhances the emotional well-being of the children and their families.
The organization was founded in 2007 by Cindy Kerr, who began making pillowcases for her son, Ryan Kerr, more than a decade ago to brighten up his hospital room and put a smile on his face during his cancer treatments. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of twelve. He fought through five cancer recurrences, 30 months of chemotherapy, 15 surgeries, the amputation of his right leg and over 150 days of physical therapy. But his sickness never slowed him down. He loved challenging himself and mastering new skills as much as he could. Throughout his battle, he managed to stay engaged in his studies to graduate from high school, as well as spend time with his friends.
While Ryan Kerr's battle with cancer came to an end, his legacy lives on in Ryan's Case for Smiles.
There are more than 120 chapters full of volunteers. And these chapter's realize that a hospital stay can be a hard experience for a child, especially those with cancer and life-changing illnesses. Their goal is to help these children feel or heal better.
Mid-Missouri has it's own chapter organized by Ginger Beasley, which tries to serves in between the bigger chapters in Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield.
During their workshop Thursday at Rooster Creek Company, volunteers made 250 pillowcases with the goal of finishing 250 more.
"We like to think we are putting smiles on children's faces," said Mid-Missouri Coordinator Ginger Beasley.
Rooster Creek Company has donated 500-plus yards of printed, colorful fabric for volunteers to use to make all the pillowcases.
"My whole life has been devoted to children," volunteer Susan Rehagen said. "I've been a teacher since I was 20 years old, been involved in education as a teacher and principal and this is just one of things we can do for kids to brighten them up. Sewing is a skill I had since I was nine years old and this is a good way to put it to use. I've been retired for about 20 years, and this is also a way I stay connected with people."
When it comes to their process, volunteers makes sure to use clean hands, wash the pillowcases or fabric in non-scented laundry detergent and use no dryer sheets, put the cases in Ziploc baggies and send them to the hospital. They do it this way to ensure the safety of the children who will be receiving them.
"Picking the pillowcase is the only thing the child has control of, so it raises spirits," said Rooster Creek Company owner Teresa Cuno.
For more information on how to get involved or to learn more, visit www.caseforsmiles.org