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WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — Sheila Kroll was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2014. Seven months and 33 radiation treatments later, she selected a red, white and blue quilt from a cupboard at Great River Cancer Center.

“(Getting the quilt) was kind of like, ‘OK, it’s done,'” the West Burlington resident and Hawkeye Heritage Quilt Guild president said. “I felt like I was finally at the end and I could pick up where life left off.”

Each of the cancer center’s patients is given a quilt upon completion of their final round of treatment, the Hawk Eye reported .

Kroll, who began sewing at age 9 and spent much of her recovery time teaching her sister and caregiver to quilt, was one of about a dozen women who formed a quilting assembly line on Dec. 4 in the Blackhawk Room at Great River Medical Center to ensure the quilt cupboard remains well stocked.

“When (a quilt) is wrapped around you, it’s a comfort. It’s warm,” said guild member Paula Logan of Burlington. “It’s an act of love, because it takes time and precision. And to construct one and then give it away, it’s an act of love.”

Logan said she and most of the women there had been impacted by cancer at some point, whether they had it or a loved one did. She was primary care giver and did home hospice for her mother, who died of cancer in 2010, and her husband, who died in 2015.

Many of the guild’s projects are for charity, and, in addition to cancer patients, its members have quilted for hospice patients, the battered women’s shelter, Hope Haven residents and military veterans, among others.

Logan’s husband received a quilt through hospice care.

“I was blessed that I was introduced to this before it touched me personally, but when my husband received his quilt and all the people signed it who visited him, it meant so much,” Logan said.

Great River Health Systems Volunteer Services Coordinator Michelle McGraw called on Logan, her former sewing teacher at Horace Mann Middle School, to help organize the event. McGraw purchased hundreds of yards of fabric in numerous patterns and colors using money raised by Great River Friends. She said the cost — before coupons — was about $6,000.

“It took JoAnn Fabric hours to cut,” she said.

Having a variety of fabric is important, she explained, because cancer doesn’t discriminate. That’s why patterns featured everything from bicycles to fish to beer bottles.

Deborah Grogan, a registered nurse who works in the cancer center’s radiation therapy department, said each patient she brings to the cupboard finds one quilt among the pile whose pattern and design “is just something that reminds them of their journey. It’s just so neat.”

Kroll explained she selected her patriotic-themed quilt because she comes from a patriotic family, her father, Jack Thomas, having served in World War II and the National Guard.

“I was in the process of making my dad’s quilt of valor when he passed,” she said.

With the fabric on hand, Logan and Gail Samuel, whose mother died of cancer six years ago and sister died of leukemia in January, met with other guild members ahead of time to pre-cut and prepare the many pieces it takes to make a quilt, let alone 80.

Come Dec. 4, each woman brought with her own sewing machine. Among them was Danville resident and guild member Virginia Beck with her Singer Featherweight, which she’s had since the age of 16.

“I wanted a record player, but instead I got this,” she said with a laugh.

She eventually got a record player, but it was long outlived by the sewing machine.

Featherweights, Logan explained, are somewhat of a status symbol among quilters.

Logan and Samuel were so busy assisting other quilters with duties such as pinning and layering, they didn’t even set up their machines. In addition to sewing, quilting requires a good deal of ironing, a job several women took on to allow others more time to sew the quilts that one day will serve as a reminder and symbol of strength and comfort to an area cancer patient.


Information from: The Hawk Eye,