PRAIRIE CITY - Goodbye, white; hello, color ... and cheer.

"No child with a white pillowcase" is the goal at St. Luke's Hospital in Boise as a way of brightening up the hospital rooms - and spirits - of its pediatric patients. Prairie City School students are doing their part for the cause.

Under the direction of teacher Melody Field, students are sewing pillowcases in bright, cheery colors and patterns for the young patients. Participants include eighth-graders and students in the Family and Consumer Studies and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) programs.

Field said they found out about the program after the Prairie City FCCLA donated money from a cookie sales fund-raiser to the Children's Miracle Network, and the contribution went to the closest CMN hospital, St. Luke's.

Sophomore Krystin Packard suggested that this year they make something for a cause.

"We wondered about making colorful pillowcases for them (St. Luke's)," said Field.

They called St. Luke's Health Foundation and learned of their "no white pillowcases" goal.

"The Foundation was extremely excited to hear about our project and even sent us a pattern and suggestions," Field said.

Prairie City students and their sewing machines were soon off and stitching.

Using material donated by Quilts and Beyond of Prairie City, FCCLA members and other individuals, Field cut the cotton and flannel fabric in sections ready for the students to sew. Each pillowcase has two fabrics: one for the main part and another for the border.

For one of his pillowcases, Brandon Gillihan chose a patriotic theme, with an American flag-patterned fabric.

Gillihan, who said that his own room has patriotic colors, said, "I like the way it looks and I like the colors."

Sewing is a familiar activity for many of the students, who have crafted other projects at school or in 4-H. However, Field said she added French seams to the process - a new skill for some students and one that produces a clean, non-fraying finish on the inside.

Field said they planned the project to coincide with National FCCLA week, Feb. 12-18, but added that the students will continue to work on the pillowcases for a few weeks longer. Their goal is to finish 50 pillowcases over the next few weeks.

Each one will be washed and placed in a zip-locked bag to protect children with suppressed immunity. Field said they will either mail or personally deliver them to St. Luke's. She added that the young patients get to keep their pillowcases when they are discharged.

The students also plan to donate some to Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day.

According to Julie Hughes, a representative from St. Luke's, the hospital based their pillowcase project on the similar ConKerr Cancer program, started in 2002 by Cindy Kerr in Philadelphia. Kerr, whose son was undergoing cancer treatment, made colorful pillowcases to brighten his hospital room. After seeing how much he loved them, Kerr began making more for other children in the oncology unit at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

That project, "A Case for Smiles," has provided almost 400,000 pillowcases to date, with school groups, sewing circles, church groups and fabric stores all pitching in.

St. Luke's Health Foundation reports that each year 60,000 children undergo care at St. Luke's; 3,000 use surgical services and 35,000 visiting the emergency room.

The Prairie City FCCLA has participated in a variety of citizenship projects: making blankets for Blue Mountain Nursing Home and hats for Blue Mountain nursery, running a canned food drive for the Prairie City Food Bank, doing childcare for Families First Parent Resource Center and collecting poptabs for Ronald McDonald House in memory of Taner Gilliam.

Field said the pillowcase project helps them fulfill four of their chapter goals for the year: continue successful community service projects, help the needy in the community, participate in state and national programs and plan fun activities.



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