When LT Family and Consumer Science teacher Danielle Radzialowski heard from her mom that there was a high demand for chemotherapy pillows at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, she showed fellow FCS teacher Lauren Gjini a prototype. A week later, Gjini and her students had sent over 150 pillows to be donated.
“My sister is going through chemotherapy for breast cancer and my mom started making support pillows for women who just had mastectomies,” Radzialowski said. “My mom was telling me how she was unable to keep up with demand and how it saddened her that so many women were going through the same struggles as my sister.”
Students in Gjini’s fashion and interior design classes were asked to work on as many pillows as they could when their class projects had been completed, Gjini said.
“Some students were able to make multiple within a few days,” Gjini said.
Creating the pillows consisted of sewing two pieces of fabric together, leaving a hole to insert the stuffing and then sewing the hole closed, Gjini’s Fashion and Design student Greta Molek ‘20 said.
As the pillow project was coming to an end, e-learning due to COVID-19 was beginning to become a possibility for the LT community.
“I was already home a few days into e-learning when Mrs. [Radzialowski] again reached out to our department of Family and Consumer Science teachers to help with sewing masks,” Gjini said. “I went out that afternoon to shop for fabric and elastic and started making them that day.”
Radzialowski contacted the FCS teachers regarding mask-making when her friend who works as a radiology tech at Comers Children’s Hospital asked if Radzialowski’s mom could make her a mask since the emergency department didn’t have any left.
“I told my mom, Mrs. Gjini, Ms. Elliott, and Mrs. Vahl,” Radzialowski said. “Today we have donated over 200 masks and have 100 more waiting for elastic.”
As of April 22, over 500 masks have been donated.
“I have friends and family members that are healthcare professionals and it’s amazing how they are putting themselves on the frontlines to save and protect others,” Gjini said. “When I was given this opportunity to make masks, I knew it was a unique skill set that I could provide for the greater good.”
Gjini has sewn and donated 50 masks on her own.
Though social distancing has made it more difficult to get supplies to make masks, Molek’s friend Desa Bolger ‘19, who is home from college, has been collecting supplies to make masks, as well as masks that are completed for people to pick up and make replicas of the finished masks. Bolger is part of the facebook group, Chicago Mask Makers, Molek said. Molek then will be dropping off finished masks at Bolger’s house which will be donated by Bolger to local organizations and hospitals.
“Getting into this project has taught me how everyone can come together to help,” Molek said. “My friend doing the drop-off box has already gathered a really good amount of materials within a day and I am really excited to be a part of it.”