Joy Quilts program continues to help children in crisis

More than 7,000 plush animals, quilts given out

Bears, bunnies or pugs, no matter the plush, dedicated local quilters continue to bring comfort through their hobby to children at possibly the worst time in their young lives.

Joy Quilts through the Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club in Sequim provide small, handmade quilts each wrapped around a plush animal to local service agencies for children dealing with trauma and/or unwelcome transitions.

“It’s just something cozy to hold onto in a time of darkness and fear,” said Becca Korby, executive director of Healthy Families of Clallam County.

Her agency and many others in the county have received more than 7,000 Joy Quilts since the program started in 2008.

Loretta Bilow, coordinator/founder of the program, converted a space in her garage to accommodate donations, and with 200 members in the quilt club, she’s unsure who makes what.

“I get quilts every week, probably four to 12,” she said. “We need them continually.”

In October, 55 Joy Quilts were delivered to Olympic Medical Center for child patients who are afraid and/or in pain, organizers said.

Peyton Ellis of Port Angeles, then 3 years old, received a Joy Quilt with a plush puppy on his emergency room stay a few years ago.

His mom Cheila Ellis said he named it Henry and slept with the dog for two years. In kindergarten, a classmate was sad after losing her grandmother, so Peyton decided to give the girl her beloved Henry, Cheila said.

“(Peyton told her), ‘This puppy was given to me when I was sad and he made me feel better; his name is Henry, but you can change it if you want to’,” Chelie recalled. “(He said), ‘I just want you to feel better. When you feel like crying hug him tightly because he’s a great hugger, he likes to cuddle with you when you watch TV or go to bed. I hope he’ll love you as much as he did me.’”

“I was proud of him,” she added.

Bilow said the quilts go to any organization working with children in crisis.

“Anyone who needs them, gets them,” she said.

Korby said Healthy Families works with victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect, and the quilts “bring a moment of peace; our subject matter is not warm and fuzzy.”

When children come into the Children’s Advocacy Center inside the agency’s building at 1210 E. Front St., Port Angeles, “they have something to wrap up in.”

Korby said she remembers talking to a mother with three children close to the Christmas holiday, asking them what they wanted for the holiday and what their favorite animals were. One child said pigs, and Korby found a donated Joy Quilt with a stuffed pig.

“It was a Christmas wish come true,” Korby said.

How to help

During the pandemic, Sequim’s club has seen an increase in quilt output for the program, she said, along with a need for more plush animals.

Club members ask for new or washed nearly-new animals about 10 to 14 inches tall. Donations can be made at a collection barrel at Swain’s in Port Angeles and on the porch in a box at 60 Letha Lane, Sequim.

Organizers hope to add more donation barrels in the future, and look to partner with more agencies, they said.

“We have a lot of love to share, and could use your help to make it happen,” quilter Carol Irving said.

She and fellow Joy Quilts organizers thank all the donors of animals and quilters because “we could not keep this project working without your help.”

They also thank all the organizations for distributing the animals and the businesses that allow donations in their facilities.

Bilow said Sequim’s Joy Quilts grew from a similar effort started with quilters in Kitsap County, and that idea blossomed into her friends starting efforts in their cities in California and Colorado.

For more information about Joy Quilts, call Bilow at 360-582-0100.

Healthy Families support

Korby said a recent anonymous donor made a pledge to match up to $10,000 to support its operations, such as emergency housing, child services, therapy and more.

To support the agency, call 360-452-3811 or visit Healthyfam.org.

For the crisis line, call 360-452-HELP (4357).

A few years ago, Loretta Bilow converted a space in her garage for Joy Quilts, a program through the Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club that offers a small quilt and plush animal for agencies to give children in trauma and/or unwelcome transition. Today, the group has given away more than 7,000 Joy Quilts. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash

A few years ago, Loretta Bilow converted a space in her garage for Joy Quilts, a program through the Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club that offers a small quilt and plush animal for agencies to give children in trauma and/or unwelcome transition. Today, the group has given away more than 7,000 Joy Quilts. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash