Bishop Fenwick High School Senior and Healing Hearts Club Founder Joie Dillon (center) delivers knitted prayer squares to the Kaplan Family Hospice House. Accepting the donation are Kaplan House Director Jennifer Sawyer (left) and Care Dimensions Volunteer Coordinator Fran Clements (right).
I learned to knit in the eighth grade when volunteering at the Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur Retirement Center in Ipswich. I was working toward my Girl Scout Silver Award and a Sister taught me how to create “prayer squares,” eight-by-10-inch knitted pieces of yarn with a heart in the middle. The squares were to be donated to hospice patients and their families as a way to bring some peace during a difficult time. I quickly picked up the art of knitting, made as many prayer squares as I could, and soon realized that one knitter was not going to be enough to keep up with the demand. So, during my freshman year at Bishop Fenwick High School
, I started the Healing Hearts Club.
Helping other Bishop Fenwick High School students make a difference
I started the club because I believed many teens lacked empathy, compassion, and a greater understanding of the sick and dying, and I wanted to help others make a difference in our community. My goal for the club was to teach students and faculty how to knit prayer squares that would be donated to the Kaplan Family Hospice House
in Danvers. Since we knit prayer squares with a heart in the middle, I named the program Healing Hearts. I also decided to make this my Girl Scout Gold Award Project, which I completed in June of 2016.
Members of the Bishop Fenwick High School Healing Hearts Club display note cards with positive messages and yarn they use to knit prayer squares for patients at the Kaplan Family Hospice House.
Trying to start a knitting club at any high school is difficult. Many of my classmates made fun of the club until they realized who it was benefiting. Even after I explained the purpose of the club, I only had a handful of members. Meeting once a week, I taught students, one-on-one, how to knit. Some students also made prayer cards with inspirational quotes. Individual teaching took up a lot of time, but it paid off when students proudly displayed their completed squares. Seeing the students finish hours of practice stitching to make a square was very satisfying for me.
Starting and managing the club, I learned that being a leader and teaching others takes a tremendous amount of patience. I have always been very outgoing and some say a natural born leader; however, my leadership skills improved throughout the course of my four years at Bishop Fenwick High School because of this club.
Grief support for fellow Bishop Fenwick students
Another part of my Gold Award Project was creating a teen grief support informational brochure, which I completed with the help of Care Dimensions. Through the Healing Hearts Club and Gold Award Project I knew we were making a difference for many people, but I had no idea how important these efforts would be to my high school community. Over the course of my junior year, four Bishop Fenwick High School students lost their fathers. Knowing how devastating a time it must have been for the students and their families, Healing Hearts was there to help. A prayer square package was sent to each family and every family sent back a thank-you note expressing how much the prayer squares meant to them in their time of need.
In an effort to provide more prayer squares to the Kaplan House, I reached out to my church community at St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish
in Danvers for help. Within the first three weeks, the parish collected an additional 200 prayer squares. I hope more join the effort.
With the help of knitters in my church and school community, and family and friends, Healing Hearts is slowly but surely making a difference. I couldn’t be prouder of the club and all of the members for taking the time to learn to knit and show such support and compassion for hospice patients and their families.
Do you like to knit, crochet, quilt, or make other handcrafts? We welcome you to join us with your creative support for our hospice patients and their families. To learn more, please contact Senior Volunteer Coordinator Roberta Czajkowski by calling 978-750-9382 or email her at RCzajkowski@caredimensions.org.