Twenty-six students from a South Middle School family and consumer science class delivered handmade “pillow pets” and spent about two hours Thursday volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Joplin.
The students spent the past two weeks sewing the pillow pets, which turned out to be squarish pillows decorated largely as frogs or monkeys. It was their first time creating something from a pattern, which required them to carefully follow instructions and properly use a sewing machine, said their instructor, Kiley Marti.
After delivering the pillows, students divided into groups to vacuum, dust, wipe down windows, rake leaves, pick up trash and put together Easter baskets for families staying at the house.
“I think it’s good for them any time they can step outside of worrying about themselves and see the bigger pillars of support in this community,” Marti said.
Eighth-grader Briana Lujan said that although the sewing project took “a lot of patience,” she overall enjoyed it and didn’t mind parting with her finished product, a bright-green frog pillow with arms and legs. She said she even tried to make her frog different from her classmates’ pillows, many of which were also turned into frogs.
“I put kissy lips on my frog because when I was little, I heard of the frog turning into the prince, and I always thought that the frog needed kissed,” she said.
Eighth-grader Korah Higdon said she turned her pillow pet into a bumblebee with hair barrettes.
“It was super fun to personalize it, knowing a little kid is going to get it,” she said.
Higdon said she hoped her pillow pet would be of some comfort to parents staying at the Ronald McDonald House, which is billed as a “home away from home” for families with children being treated in nearby hospitals.
“They kind of have something to hold since they don’t have their children with them,” she said.
House manager Shirley Hylton said at least one pillow pet would be placed in each bedroom and would be available for families to take with them when they leave the Ronald McDonald House.
She said she appreciated the students’ willingness to tackle chores and odd jobs around the house.
“It’s very heartwarming for the younger generation to want to give back to the community,” she said. “At this age, it’s not all about themselves; they can see how other people need things, and that’s a good tool to have.”
THE RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE of the Four States operates almost solely on volunteer labor.