Helen Demaio, 7, watches as Melinda Remington sews pieces of a quilted shawl. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio

BETHEL — “Hailey was my friend.  I want to help other kids who are just like Hailey,” 7-year-old Helen Demaio, said.

Helen recently joined a local sewing group that has been meeting Wednesdays for the past year creating warm, cozy shawls called Hugs for cancer and kidney dialysis patients who often feel chilled during their treatments.
Helen was a friend of Hailey Steward, who passed away two years ago at age 10 after a long battle with leukemia.

A partially completed shawl made by volunteer quilters. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio

The Bethel group is led by Donna Gillis, who started the effort after she received a large donation of fabric from a fellow quilter and a request for help from Jo Ann Korhonen to the Cross Country Quilters’ Guild, of which both Gillis and Korhonen are members.

Helen attended a recent gathering of the group at the Bethel Historical Society with her mother, Ellen.
Ellen said Helen had gotten her own sewing machine three weeks earlier and was making great progress in learning how to make the pieces for the Hugs. She ironed fabric and got more more sewing advice from Melinda Remington, another participant, who explained her interest in the work.
“I knew Donna was doing this, and I wanted to help people affected by cancer,” Remington said. “I know they get cold. It’s a way for the community to show support for them.”
Ellen said the group recently delivered 11 Hugs to the Cancer Resource Center in Norway, and 13 more were given to Tabitha Steward, Hailey’s mother, to bring to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.
“We like to think every hug is a hug from us,” Gillis said. “Every one that is made is unique in color and pattern.”
The group has also donated quilts to other causes, including women’s shelters, the veterans’ program Cabin in the Woods, and “fire quilts” for victims of house fires, Gillis said.
Other members of the group include Michelle Conroy and Beth Hodges.

Helen Demaio, 7, irons a partially completed quilted shawl while her mother, Ellen, works behind her. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.