Youngsters sew quilts, with love, for hospitalized babies

August 16, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

"When I go to sleep at night,

I'm safe as I can be

Because my guardian angel

Is watching over me."

For Rebecca Russenberger, 10, those words became the centerpiece of a quilt, bordered with angels. Rebecca attached a guardian angel pin to the coverlet before she gave it to a needy baby.

"Angels really do watch," said Rebecca, one of 10 youngsters who batted, basted and stitched patches into coverlets during Quilts for Love 1994.

Each quilt started with a 12-by-12-inch square and ended more than 100 hours of labor later as one of 11 gifts to babies at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore.

The children, who range from 8 years old to 14 years old, met every week since school closed in June at the Ursone home in Eldersburg for sewing lessons and encouragement.

"It kills your fingers," said Anthony Ursone, 11, showing his battle scars. "You have to use a thimble."

His 14-year-old sister, Jessica Ursone, said, "We learned sewing techniques as we went."

Last week, the children posed with their colorful quilts in the sewing room -- known to the Ursone family as their living room. The youngsters all smiled broadly for the final photo in an album that records the summer project.

Then, they were off to St. Agnes, where they donated their quilts, met the staff and toured the pediatrics department.

"They explained to us how kids of all ages, who are really sick, need special care," Jessica said. "Our quilts will help with that."

Blankets hold a place in a child's heart, said Lauren Carlquist, 14.

"I remember my blanket, and when I heard about the babies, I wanted to make one for them," she said. "These quilts will give the children something comforting and soft to hold onto. It's a security thing."

The children chose themes that would appeal to the very young. Anthony's smiling dinosaurs play on a dark blue background. He spent nearly 20 hours on his project -- not nearly as long as his mother spends on full-sized quilts, he said.

Kristen Waagbo, 9, stitched six bunny scenes into a pink and blue quilt decorated with hearts. Doug Russenberger, 8, chose the same theme as Kristen but with a different background. The children hoped the nearly identical bunny quilts might go to twins.

Amy Scherr, 12, mirrored the project theme as she stitched figures that said "Save the Children" onto quilted hearts.

Jean Waagbo said the quilts not only taught the children a craft but also gave them topics to discuss as they worked.

"There was no TV or video while they quilted," she said. "They sewed and talked, often about the babies they would be helping. They learned about foster care, adoption and at-risk babies."

Judy Musgrave, a foster mother to infants, spoke to the group twice.

"She told us that some mothers are not able to care for their babies properly," Jessica said.

Ms. Musgrave showed the children a patchwork quilt that had belonged to an 8-week-old infant who died of meningitis.

"That little person had a quilt as his only possession," Jessica said.

Ms. Musgrave introduced the children to a 3-week-old infant last week and assured them their quilts would "help give the babies a loving environment to get them started."

Ms. Waagbo said she liked her two children's quilts so much she wanted to keep them.

"That was the best part," she said. "They made a beautiful craft and they gave it away to a baby who needs a lot of love."

Carolyn Ursone said every summer she looks for a project for her children.

"This was an activity which made them feel good about themselves," she said. "There was enormous excitement in the neighborhood for the project."

Other children soon joined the Ursones in stitching.

"When I heard about it, I thought it sounded like it would be fun," said Justin Waagbo, 11, whose quilt is built around a transportation theme.

Each child made one quilt and one was a group effort.

"And, my mom will make one more with the scraps," Jessica said.

Kathy Russenberger, mother of two quilters, said all the children worked hard.

"They spent time to make a difference in the lives of children who don't have anything," she said. "They realized there are many kids who don't have a mom or dad to give them everything under the sun."

Anthony said he felt sorry for the babies, who "might not ever know who their real parents are."

Ms. Ursone told the children their anonymous donations would go to "children who need extra love and comforting."

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