Quilts that Care bring Warmth to Cancer Patients

When Deborah Van Steenbergen’s husband Bob was receiving treatment for brain cancer at The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center, she noticed how many of the patients came in alone for treatment.  It broke her heart to think about them going through something so difficult, alone, and she wanted to find a way to let them know people were thinking of them.   She had always been a quilter, and with her husband Bob’s encouragement, she stared a group to make quilts for some of the patients at the Center.

In August, Deborah’s husband Bob passed away.  In his honor, Deborah and the volunteers continued to meet twice a month at The Harold Leever Cancer Center to work on the quilts, and the group began to grow.  The project now has over 45 volunteers that do everything from the actual quilting, to organizing thread, ironing, and sewing.  No quilting experience is necessary.  She has even had people stop by to drop off quilting supplies and gift cards, and hopes to expand to satellite spaces along the shoreline and in the central and western parts of the state so that more patients can receive quilts.

Recently, the group moved to a larger space donated by Steven Fournier, president and CEO of Gar Kenyon.  They now have the room to spread out, and space to store their fabrics, equipment, threads, batting, etc.  “The outpouring of support has just been amazing,” said Deborah.  “I know in my heart that my husband is watching over us and helping to make this happen.” 

Deborah’s goal this past year was to complete 7 quilts, they finished 107.  This year her goal is 200 quilts for 200 deserving cancer patients.  The quilts are being donated to patients being treated at Smilow Cancer Hospital, along with other area hospitals.  Bonnie Indeck, LCSW, Manager of Oncology Social Work at Smilow Cancer Hospital, accepted the quilts and has already found people with cancer at Smilow that will benefit from their warmth, both figuratively and literally.  “The effort that Deborah has started and the time she has put into this project is amazing.  It is so important for patients to know that their community is behind them and that they are not alone.  People are so grateful when they realize that someone made something just for them, and is thinking of them,” Bonnie said.

Deborah and her group are still welcoming volunteers and donations. To donate or volunteer, call Deborah at (860) 945-0184 or email quiltsthatcare.deb@gmail.com

This article was submitted by Emily Montemerlo on February 25, 2013.

Deborah Van Steenbergen (left) and Bonnie Indeck display some of the donated quilts at Smilow Cancer Hospital.