By Khalida Sarwari
Like most 13-year-old boys in Campbell, when he’s not occupied with his schoolwork Skye Walker keeps busy with sports. Lacrosse and basketball are two that he enjoys the most. But a few months ago Skye took up another hobby, one that doesn’t require much movement but has been just as–if not more–fulfilling.
In his spare time, Skye helps keep cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy warm by making fleece blankets for them. And not just blankets; he throws in a couple of pillowcases, too. The blankets are easy to make, requiring little more than some fabric, scissors and folding and cutting skills. For the pillowcases, however, Skye had to learn how to use a sewing machine.
Weeks before he got involved with the blanket bundle project, Skye went through some important changes in his own life. In August, doctors diagnosed him with Type 1 diabetes, something that “definitely altered a lot of things,” he said.
“But I try not to let it affect me as much as it can,” said Skye. “It’s not like I’m doing chemotherapy. My disease is controllable.”
Skye said he was inspired to get involved with the project while he was at his grandmother’s house one day in September and saw bundles of fabric. Clareen Dunivin, 71, of Los Gatos, had recently gotten involved with Cancer CAREpoint’s blanket bundle project after Saratogan Karen Kleinberg sought her help in getting the project up and running.
Cancer CAREpoint is a San Jose-based organization that provides cancer patients with services ranging from exercise classes to nutrition classes and meditation. The idea of the blanket project is “to give recently diagnosed cancer patients something just to let them know that they are thought about as they begin this journey of treatment,” said Dunivin.
Why blankets? Because many agents used as part of a chemo treatment often make patients sensitive to the cold.
Dunivin, an active quilter who is now retired after working as an instructor at a dance studio that she owned in Saratoga for 25 years, agreed to help Kleinberg and enlisted others in her Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association group.
“I presented this project to the group, and they embraced it wholeheartedly,” Dunivin said. “I have probably collected at least 200 blankets from them.”
The next step was showing Skye how to use her sewing machine. Dunivin and her grandson began spending hours making bundles at her home, and in the process of cutting, sewing and folding, growing closer to each other.
“We started a conversation about volunteerism,” Dunivin said. “We talked about helping others and how when you give, you’re receiving. He said to me, ‘You know this is what I’m going to do; I’m going to help people. I’m going to do more of this in my life’.”
Skye, who attends Charles Armstrong School in Belmont, said he goes over to his grandmother’s house about every other week. He plans to make the bundles for as long as they’re needed, but said he is interested also in doing other forms of volunteer work. Aside from the blanket project, he and Dunivin will occasionally buy gifts that they donate to orphans.
“It’s a great feeling knowing you can help people and make a difference in somebody else’s life, even if it’s just giving them a blanket,” he said.
Just about anybody can get involved in the project, whether it is as part of a scout troop, sewing group or even individually, said Dunivin. Each bundle takes about 15 minutes to assemble. The materials can be picked up from any craft store, such as Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. A yard and a half of fleece fabric costs about $8 and will make one blanket and two pillowcases. Sewing is not a required skill to participate, Dunivin said.
Skye said he hopes to get others interested in getting involved with the project, although so far he hasn’t had much luck with his siblings.
“I’ve tried to get my brothers to join, but they’re not too good with scissors,” he said.
For more information about Cancer CAREpoint and the blanket bundle project, visit cancercarepoint.org.