Lancer Media “stitches” the community together through Ryan’s Case for Smiles project

Howard County 4-H Program Adviser Chris Rein teaches Lancer Media members Madeline Williamson and Julie Walker how to sew a pillowcase.

by Sierra Rossman, Reporter

Imagine a world with nothing but needles, loud machines, and beeping for days on end with a medical routine that would drive any person stir-crazy. This is the reality for many children and teens who suffer from serious illnesses.

It is hard to stay positive in the face of pain. According to Ryan’s Case for Smiles, “20% of children who are hospitalized with cancer and 30% of their mothers suffer full symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These rates are comparable to that experienced by U.S. War Veterans serving since the Vietnam War.” Although it may not seem like much, a colorful pillowcase can change that mood.

On May 21, with the help of Chris Rein, Howard County 4-H program administrator, Maureen Dixon, science assistant, Barbara Creighton, math teacher, Shirley Haley, volunteer from the community, Lauren Miller, class of 2020, and Sydney Rossman, Linganore Alum, Lancer Media began sewing pillowcases to donate to Ryan’s Case for Smiles.

Before sewing could begin, however, donations were collected by Lancer Media to fund the purchase of fabric for the pillowcases. Fabric was also donated by members of the community such as Becky Bond, Jessica Nelson, the Rossman family, and Kate Lane. This fabric was cut to the correct size before the sewing day to help the process go “seamlessly.”

The day began with splitting the Lancer Media class into three groups. Each group was assigned a lunch shift to sew during. With the tremendous help of Rein, there was a total of five sewing machines available during each lunch shift.

“I was extremely surprised that there was a large number of youth wanting to learn to participate in Ryan’s Case for Smiles. It was nice to see so many youth enthusiastic to give back to the community. Sewing machines can be very intimidating if you have never used one, but all the students were willing to learn and look past the intimidation. It is very rewarding for me as an instructor to see the proud looks on the faces of youth once they complete their pillowcase project; it’s priceless!” said Rein.

The enthusiasm displayed by the class shows how one person’s story can spark a flame in discovering a passion.

“When I started campaigning for our Ryan’s Case for Smiles project, I had a little experience in sewing, but not enough knowledge to sew a pillowcase on my own. I was a little nervous that I would have a hard time, and I definitely didn’t want to mess up on something that would mean so much to a child. When I learned how to sew the pillowcases, I realized how easy it actually was. I honestly got addicted to sewing, and in total ended up sewing about six pillowcases. I think it’s just really fun and rewarding to take part in such a simple activity that would really end up making a child’s day.” said Elizabeth Rajnik, class of 2021.

After the designated sewing day, several students like Rajnik continued to sew pillowcases out of extra fabric that was available.

Natalie Rebetsky, leader of The Lance, was elated to embark on this journey.

“I was just as addicted to sewing as Elizabeth. My old sewing machine remained in my classroom for over two months in case anyone wanted to try it.” she said.

Lancer Media first began sewing pillowcases for Ryan’s Case for Smiles in 2017 when, then senior Sydney Rossman introduced the idea.

“[The class] had always talked about doing a service project, but we never had any luck with coming up with ideas. Then, in my senior year, I decided to bring up sewing pillowcases for Ryan’s Case for Smiles as an option. I was extremely impressed with how enthusiastic everyone was to help out and learn how to sew in order to donate a pillowcase. It is organizations like Ryan’s Case for Smiles that bring communities together to give back to a program that means so much to so many people.” said Rossman.

Ryan’s Case for Smiles is a volunteer-based organization whose sole purpose is to help kids “feel better to heal better.” The organization collects pillowcases and donates them to several hospitals. The pillowcases represent hope and happiness that the patients and their families need in such an immediate crisis.

The organization was founded by Cindy Kerr, mother of Ryan Kerr, who was the inspiration for the association. Ryan was twelve years old when he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, which is a type of cancer that forms in bones. There are less than 20,000 cases of Osteosarcoma diagnosed every year.

Although this was a very difficult time for Ryan and his parents, he never gave up hope and continued to pursue his passions, even after fifteen surgeries and the amputation of his right leg. While at the hospital, Cindy Kerr made many pillowcases for her son to add color back into a scary world that may seem black and white.

After Ryan’s passing, Mr. and Mrs. Kerr kept his memory alive by starting the foundation: “Ryan’s Case for Smiles.”

Over 50,000 children are helped by Ryan’s Case for Smiles annually through 362 participating hospitals. To date, $16,500,000 in supplies in materials has been contributed, but the importance of contributions are priceless.

Anyone, pro-sewer or beginner, can sew a pillowcase for the cause. The pillowcases can be made using the “hot-dog” method, as shown in the instructions made by the volunteers. The Rossman family will pick up any donated pillowcases to Lancer Media from Linganore High School.

Specific lengths of each piece of fabric is present in the instructions; however when picking out the fabric, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Must be 100% cotton
  • Doesn’t have glitter
  • Pick out fabric that is fun, colorful novelty prints
  • Not flannel
  • No religious symbols

This tradition, started by Sydney Rossman, is hoped to be a lasting part of the Linganore community. Hope comes in many forms, even as a pillowcase.