Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

And sew happy Christmas

Garden City students pitching in to make blankets for needy northerners

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When Garden City Gophers badminton player Kevin Li found out he was going to be sewing blankets in class, taking a kill shot in the face sounded less painful.

It turned out the 17-year-old high school student was pretty good at it.

Sewing blankets that is, not receiving the full-face kill shot.

"I really liked the project but I didn't know how to sew so I thought I'd iron (the fabric before it is sewn) instead but it turned out I don't know how to iron either," said Li, laughing. "I started with the cutting (fabric) and from there, I learned how to sew so I can do that now."

Li, Gophers basketball player Shanna Quashie, badminton player Leah Harz and Haley Koss are making 100 flannel receiving blankets which will be given to the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre as part of their Grade 12 Family Studies class taught by Nikki Dirks.

Dirks and her class joined Seven Oaks School Division psychologist Chantal Wiebe's project, which Wiebe began two years ago with her grandmother, calling it the Oma Mary Project. Making the blankets gives the students the opportunity to complete the required volunteer hours for the class and helps fill a need in another community.

"I want to be a doctor, so the chance to help out little kids in any way is a big thing to me. We're making a difference in somebody's life. That means a lot," Li said. "I've had a lot of people coming up to me saying that it's really cool that we're doing this and asking if they (the school) will do it again next year."

The receiving blankets will go to moms and their newborn babies at the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre, which is staffed by midwives so women in the region can deliver their babies closer to home and family.

"The project is a way of encouraging empathy, the development of social justice and community awareness for the students and to make them more aware of situations beyond what we are living day-to-day," Wiebe said. "That birthing centre serves seven communities around Rankin Inlet. It's going to have a big impact on our students to meet some of the midwives and have great discussions about the needs of the North, how much more expensive it is there and how difficult it is just to get supplies there to moms and babies."

Quashie, the starting point guard with Garden City's varsity girls basketball team, has come to a group sewing session straight from her daily basketball practice. All it takes is a little perseverance and a lot of time management, two skills that Quashie mastered long ago.

"I'm a big fan of kids so I really liked this idea," said Quashie, also a track and field athlete in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. "I have a pretty strict schedule with all my sports, church and homework. When I heard about this program, I thought it was such a great idea to help kids who don't necessarily have what we have."

The students are also working on raising $600 each to cover the cost of their flights so they can hand-deliver the blankets in February. That cost is a fraction of the usual $2,800 fare to fly up north. Dirks and Wiebe said Kivalliq Air, another partner in the project, is subsidizing the rest of the airfare cost for everyone in the group.

"I've had Haley and Leah since Grade 10. They jumped on board and got Kevin and Shanna to come on board too," said Dirks who can be reached at by anyone wanting to assist her blanket brigade. "They need to get 17 hours of practicum placement hours in anything involving people and this was such a good fit in terms of helping people with a meaningful end to the project when we deliver the blankets in February."

These Garden City student athletes have got their giving spirits all "sewn up" and we in the Free Press sports department invite you to do the same this Christmas season. Please join us in our annual fundraising campaign to support the Christmas Cheer Board and its efforts to help everyone have a special Christmas.

Please send your donations to The Spirit of Christmas, c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, R2X 3B6.



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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2010 C4

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