Ryan’s Case for Smiles is one of the few volunteer organizations dedicated solely to helping sick children cope with the stress of life-changing illnesses and injuries.
They provide children with decorative pillowcases that give them an emotional boost and remind them that they are not defined by their illness. This gives the kids a stress reliever and distraction. Distraction and hope improve the emotional well-being of the children and their families.
The organization was founded in 2007 by Cindy Kerr, who started making pillowcases more than a decade ago for her son Ryan Kerr to brighten up his hospital room and bring a smile to his face during his cancer treatments. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of twelve. He battled through five cancer recurrences, 30 months of chemotherapy, 15 surgeries, the amputation of his right leg, and more than 150 days of physical therapy. But his illness never slowed him down. He loved to challenge himself and master new skills as much as possible. During his struggles, he managed to stay involved in his studies to graduate from high school, and spend time with his friends.
As Ryan Kerr’s battle with cancer came to an end, his legacy lives on in Ryan’s Case for Smiles.
There are over 120 chapters full of volunteers. And these chapters realize that hospitalization can be a tough experience for a child, especially those with cancer and life-changing diseases. Their goal is to help these children feel better or heal.
Mid-Missouri has its own branch hosted by Ginger Beasley, who tries to serve between the larger branches in Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield.
During their workshop Thursday at Rooster Creek Company, volunteers made 250 pillowcases with the goal of finishing 250 more.
“We like to think we’re putting smiles on kids’ faces,” says Mid-Missouri coordinator Ginger Beasley.
Rooster Creek Company donated over 500 yards of printed, colorful fabric for volunteers to use to make all the pillowcases.
“My whole life has been devoted to children,” says volunteer Susan Rehagen. “I’ve been a teacher since I was 20 years old, was involved in education as a teacher and principal and this is just one of the things we can do for kids to brighten them up. Sewing is a skill I’ve had since I nine was years old and this is a good way to use it. I’ve been retired for about 20 years and this is also a way to keep in touch with people.”
When it comes to their process, volunteers make sure to use clean hands, wash the pillowcases or fabric in unscented detergent and do not use dryer sheets, put the cases in Ziploc bags and send them to the hospital. They do it this way to ensure the safety of the children they will receive.
“Choosing the pillowcase is the only thing the child has control over, so it raises the spirits,” says Rooster Creek Company owner Teresa Cuno.
For more information on how to get involved or for more information, visit www.caseforsmiles.org