Grace Carroll, co-founder of Angel Pillowcases, sews a case to donate to a patient at Children’s Hospital.
Harry Arnold, a Brook Highland resident and Altamont School senior, has a self-professed head for business and an obvious open heart. He’s like many other seniors, anxious and planning for the future, filling out college applications while juggling challenging course loads with extracurricular activities. But unlike his peers – with the exception of his partner, senior Grace Carroll – Arnold is also juggling a non-profit venture.
Arnold and Carroll are founders of Angel Pillowcases, a charitable operation organized in June 2012 that crafts handmade pillowcases to donate to patients at Children’s Hospital. Since June, the venture has grown considerably, and due to the demand, the team is reaching out in Arnold’s neighborhood and beyond to bring on more volunteers, sell more pillowcases and deliver more smiles to sick children.
“I believe members of the 280 community would openly embrace our venture and give it a huge spark,” Arnold said, “which would mean more children and families from across Birmingham that would benefit.”
Angel Pillowcases was founded shortly after a blue bow campaign was held in Mountain Brook to benefit Sean Fredella. According to angelpillowcases.org, Fredella was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia when he was two years old. What followed was more than five years of painful treatment before he became cancer-free.
“Knowing that (Carroll) had casually sewn pillowcases for years for donation and that Sean had spent considerable time at Children’s, my business instincts took over and together we connected the dots that created Angel Pillowcases,” Arnold said.
Their venture has grown substantially since this summer thanks to coverage in local media and a grant from the Banking on Youth competition, but Arnold said the challenges of maintaining the operation are minimal compared to the benefit that Angel Pillowcases is having and will continue to have.
“While a personalized pillowcase certainly cannot console a child who has cancer, it can at least make them feel a little more comfortable in their surroundings,” he said. “For the younger patients especially, the pillowcases can uplift their spirits and put a smile on their face.”
The SEANStrong fund is an account at Children’s of Alabama created by the Fredella family that provides financial assistance to families at Children’s who have a child that has been diagnosed with cancer. Donations made to the SEAN Strong fund help patient families with the emotional health, well being and quality of life of children who are battling cancer.
The pillowcases come in many different designs, including bicycles and basketballs for boys and flowers and cupcakes for girls.
Starting this fall, the pillowcases are exclusively made with Michael Miller Fabrics from New York through a partnership with local businesswoman, Ann Piper, and her husband, Doug Carpenter, who learned about the pillowcases and saw a way to help lower material and production costs while furthering their own initiative to help provide work for women in Haiti, Theona’s Girls.
Theona, a seamstress Piper met on a mission trip, had fled Port au Pricne for Terrier Rouge, a small rural town, following the devastating earthquake in Port au Prince in 2010. There she decided to teach other young women how to sew and to learn a trade. The women have no electricity and use machines that are operated manually.
“Theona’s Girl’s mission is to provide women with hopes and dreams of a better life for themselves and their families with sustainable employment,” Piper said.
A full tax-deductible donation of $25 to Angel Pillowcases provides a handmade pillowcase to a child and makes a contribution to the SEANStrong Fund. On angelpillowcases.org, individuals can purchase a pillowcase for themselves or donate a pillowcase in honor of or in memory of someone, and all proceeds will benefit the fund. In addition to going online, checks to support Angel Pillowcases can be mailed to Janie Jones, Children’s of Alabama, 1600 7th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35233.
Visit angelpillowcases.org for more information or to donate.