The world just got a little warmer, thanks to a devoted educator and a group of altruistic students.
For the past four or five years, Orange Park Elementary teacher turned librarian, Mary Pat Callihan, along with fellow teacher and friend, Karen Walker, have hosted an after school club that makes quilts for patients at Wolfson’s Children Hospital. According to Mrs. Callihan, the popular club is a way for the two women to share their love of quilting along with their belief that “one has the responsibility to give in some way to feel valued.”
The club accommodates a maximum of 13 children in grades 5 and 6 and the students start by learning the basic sewing and quilting techniques before eventually translating their skills into the beautiful quilts they generously donate. Mrs. Callihan estimates that since the club began, the group has made approximately 50 quilts for the patients at Wolfsons.
This year, thanks to help from Karen’s mother, a breast cancer survivor and quilter, the club has expanded their repertoire to include mastectomy pillows. The U-shaped pillows are designed to fit under the armpit, offering arm and shoulder relief following surgery. Some of the colorful pillows have been distributed to patients here at ACC thanks to Mrs. Callihan, who is a current patient.
“After I was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, I told my surgeon I would go anywhere he suggested for my radiation treatments. He told me I needed to be at Ackerman Cancer Center because he knew they would do 100 percent whatever was right for me.”
Even though the location requires Mrs. Callihan to drive out of town and through traffic, she is confident ACC is the right place for her. “Every person there makes me feel I am top priority. From Dr. Ackerman to Jill, Julie, Eden and the rest, they always say hello and call me by name. Their kindness makes all the difference. I’m so happy to have a fabulous surgeon who sent me to a fabulous place for radiation that I recently recommended Ackerman Cancer Center to a friend.”
It is just one more way Mrs. Callihan has found to give back to others and to lead by example for her students. “Our school is one of the top schools in the state academically but we want to place the same weight on giving and kindness. I have always felt I was selfish as a kid and decided that for the second half of my life, I would like to give more than I took. I believe I have a responsibility to help the students grow in this spirit of giving as well.”