When Barbara Harrison needed funding for her aid efforts in Kenya, Vicki Young wanted to help. So, she and her friends made a quilt and raffled it off.
That was five years ago. Since then, Young and her organization, Sault Ste. Marie Quilts for Kids, have made hundreds of beautiful quilts for children in need.
“[After the raffle], then we thought, well, let's see what else we can do,” says Young.
After scouring the internet, they came upon Quilts For Kids, a US-based organization that created patchwork quilts to comfort children facing serious illness, trauma, abuse and natural disasters. Young and her friends decided to take a little trip and visit the Quilt For Kids head office in Pittsburgh, PA. There, they were inspired to start their own chapter of Quilts For Kids; the first of its kind in Canada.
What began with a small group working in the Sylvan Valley has grown to 45 volunteer members meeting several times a month throughout the region. They create the gorgeous patchwork quilts using donated fabrics, and have received funding from the likes of Soo Mill, Scotiabank, Brookfield Power, George Stone & Sons, and others to purchase discounted fabric from a Toronto-based fabric distributor.
Young estimates they’ve donated around 1,000 quilts to date; with the blankets destined for children in the neonatal unit at Sault Area Hospital, the Children’s Aid Society of Algoma, Women in Crisis, individual children who are sick — even to the relief effort at the Fort McMurray fire.
She has also hosted multiple quilting education projects; teaching high school students, young moms and seniors alike how to quilt — and then donating the finished products to the hospital.
Young has been a lifelong seamstress, much like her mother and grandmother before her.
“I think I probably made my first quilt 30 years ago,” she remembers. “ A hand-stitched quilt took me a year and a half to make.”
She developed a knack for it, however, and went on to earn a degree in costume design. After doing costume design for many years with the Shaw Festival she pivoted to social work. Now retired, Young focuses her energy on quilting and distribution.
The quilts she crafts for the children are machine-stitched (more durable) and smaller; with a little label that says ‘made with love’. She bristles a bit at the suggestion that she’s doing something exceptional in the community — “it’s not about me!” she insists.
But, she admits she loves receiving photos of the newborn babies with their quilts. “It’s the cutest thing.”
Beyond bringing smiles to kids, the group serves another purpose — creating a vital social connection.
“We have some women who've been widowed, we have some retirees — they’re looking for something to do,” says Young. “We meet, have potlucks, it’s creative and social. A lot of these women have become very good friends. It’s an amazing group.”
“We started [Soo Quilts for Kids] for something interesting to do — and have fun, and to give back,” says Young. “It’s just taken on a life of its own. It’s wonderful.”
Soo Quilts for Kids gladly accepts donations and help — even if you’re not an expert quilter. There are different jobs — from arranging quilt drop-offs to cutting fabric — that they can use a hand with. Get in touch here.