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In 2015, eleven-year-old Jessica Payne’s world was turned upside down by an emergency trip to the hospital resulting in a week-long stay and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. While there, her nurse told her that she likes to give the patients pillowcases, but they were not receiving enough donations and had run out. This planted a seed in Jessica, who soon followed a strong feeling that she should start making pillowcases for patients in the pediatrics unit at the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital (UNMCH).

Jessica remembers how much “having something bright and sunny” in her hospital room, like the flowers her grandma sent her, helped to make her stay more comfortable. She likes being able to contribute something to patients that will make their hospital stay a little brighter and that they can bring home with them when they leave the hospital. Every eight weeks Jessica spends a day at UNMCH receiving an infusion of medication. Her ongoing goal is to bring ten pillowcases to donate every time she goes.

Jessica at her infusion

In addition to sewing pillowcases herself, Jessica is always seeking ways to get her community involved. She has taught her four siblings and her parents how to make them, and once a month they have a family night when each person sews a pillowcase. She has a friend with whom she gets together every month to sew pillowcases. For her 12th birthday, she and her guests sewed pillowcases.  Jessica has also spearheaded several activities among the youth and adults at her church to teach them to make pillowcases.

The nurse who lamented not being able to give a pillowcase to Jessica when she was admitted to the hospital is thrilled by the regular donations that Jessica makes to help keep the closet stocked with supplies to brighten the lives of the patients.

When I asked Jessica how she feels when she makes a donation she said, “It’s amazing because the nurse is so excited.

I don’t get to take the pillowcases to the kids, but she tells me how excited the kids are when they see them. It’s fun because I know I’m using my time and my skills to do something good.”

Pillowcases made by Jessica

On one occasion Jessica even got to meet a recipient of one of her pillowcases: “Yesterday at our music camp, I met a girl who’s been at UNMCH and she got one of my pillowcases!” The girl said, “It helped me so much! I loved it because it made things easier.” Jessica points out that a pillowcase is something you can always see and it helps to brighten the dull hospital rooms.

Jessica brings pillowcases to hospital for donation

As Jessica continues to work on this project, she is finding ways to expand the project to include more people and more elements. Among her goals, she is working to arrange donations from fabric companies. She is also designing a coloring book for kids in the hospital.

None of us can meet all of the needs in this world, but we can use our time and skills to do good to our neighbors. Jessica has a powerful impact in her community because she observed a need  and found a way to fill it.

 How YOU can get involved:

Fabric donations can be sent to Jessica through her new blog

The pediatrics unit includes patients newborn to age 18, so Jessica is looking for a wide variety of fabrics that will appeal to people of various age ranges. (“It’s not very fun for a teenage boy to get rubber ducks,” she says.)

If you like to sew, Jessica also accepts pre-sewn pillowcases. A pattern will be available on Jessica’s blog in July.

UNMCH is also looking for donations of the following in sizes for children newborn—18 years:

  • Socks (new)
  • Underwear (new)
  • Clothing (New or Used)
  • Fleece Blankets (New)
  • Backpacks (New or Used)

Written by Elisabeth S. Weagel