For those undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatments, a little bit of comfort can go a long way. Victoria's Quilts Canada, an organization that provides quilts to those living with cancer, aims to be the source of that comfort.
A Canada-wide organization, Victoria's Quilts Canada is located in almost every province in the country, including two Saskatchewan branches, one of which located in Climax.
"One of our friends had found out about it and donated some quilts,” said Rosalee Jarman, who is a member of the Climax branch. “There are quite a few of us in the community that love to quilt, and we felt it was a way to use our gift and help other people. One of the girls just said, ‘Well why can’t we have a branch in climax’? We were actually the first branch in Saskatchewan."
The other Saskatchewan branch is located in Moosomin. Each branch sends out kits to eager quilters with specific instructions on quilt dimensions and the material to be used on the back of the quilt. Jarman said she felt called to get involved with the organization.
"I just felt led to do it, just felt like it was something that I was supposed to be doing," she said. "I like the idea that it gives comfort and help to people. Our family has been touched by cancer, and I’m sure most families have. I have lots of friends battling it, and I just like to feel like I’m a part of something that’s helping someone."
The Climax branch has produced 1441 quilts since their conception in 2010. Last year alone, they produced 225 quilts for people across Canada.
Victoria's Quilts Canada got its start in Ottawa in 1999. Since then, the organization has delivered 56,000 quilts across the country. Betty Giffin, its founder, said when she began the organization, she had no idea it would grow as it did.
"It’s been absolutely amazing," she said. "When I started this, I really had no concept whether or not it would take off. I dreamed it would, but I didn't have any idea what that meant. As it started growing in the Ottawa area, I was very pleased. Then suddenly, we had a branch wanting to open, and it started to snowball."
Giffin says she believes the quilts can provide a great comfort to those going through a particularly hard time.
"The quilt has a job, and that job is to lift the spirits of the person who receives it," she said. "There's the physical aspect, because we know patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy feel cold constantly, there’s also the spiritual aspect of it, because people who don’t even know you have put their time and effort and talents to make something for you."
Victoria's Quilts Canada relies on donations, grants and discounts from suppliers, and is entirely volunteer-run. On average, they are now producing around 600 quilts every month. Giffin says that there are over 1300 volunteers for the organization.
"Get volunteering; you don’t have to be a quilter, lots of volunteers are needed in admin,” she said. "Whatever it is they would like to do. Our volunteer is our most important asset, because without them, we don’t exist. We appreciate more than they will ever know."
The organization says the need for more quilts is constantly on the rise, a challenge that Giffin says they meet head-on.
"The goal is to become redundant. The goal is someday, someone will cure this disease, and we’re not going to be needed anymore. That’s the ultimate goal, but in the meantime, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, one quilt at a time,” Giffin said.
"Maybe someday they’ll say, ‘There’s no need for you anymore’, and we’ll all retire happily."