Over the past two and a half years, 10,000 Blankets of Hope have been delivered by The Girls Club Cork to people diagnosed with cancer. MARY HASSETT went along to the centre to talk to those involved with the worthy project
YOU are not alone. That’s the message The Girls Club Cork cancer support group wants to get across to everyone diagnosed with the illness.
Over the past two and half years, this Cork- based registered charity has distributed more than I0,000 Blankets of Hope to chemotherapy patients and cancer survivors throughout the city and county and beyond.
“It means so much to people when they are presented with a Blanket of Hope”, says Linda Goggin James, Manager of The Girls Club Cork, Cancer Support Centre.
“The message is that someone has done this journey already and they know what you’re going through.
“A lot of cancer survivors are involved in knitting or crocheting the blankets or else they would have been touched by cancer either through family or friends,” adds Linda.
Girls Club Cork founder, Ann Dowley Spillane, often felt very cold when she was going through her own chemotherapy treatment. She had heard about Blankets of Hope when she was in America and realised that they could have a practical benefit for cancer patients as well as serving to lift their spirits.
As a result, a group of eight or more ladies meet in The Girls Club every Wednesday night to crochet their colourful and unique Blankets of Hope for people affected by cancer. Another group known as ‘Knit N Natter’ meet on Thursday mornings.
The Girls Club is located at 26, St Paul’s Avenue just off Lavitt’s Quay, opposite the entrance to Paul Street Car Park. Callers to the pink door gain entry via an intercom service. As soon as visitors climb the stairs and hear the laughter, they know they have found a home from home.
“I started off as the teacher for the Wednesday night group but now it’s more a group of friends coming together,” says Margaret Kelleher from Ballyvolane. This is confirmed by her pal, Margaret Walsh.
Enthusiastic schoolchildren, Girl Guides, ICA Guilds and individuals provide The Girls Club with a constant supply of knitted and crocheted squares. Margaret Kelleher and fellow volunteer, Imelda Mulcahy, then crochet or knit the squares together and finish the blankets off with intricate edging.
“It’s only because people donate wool, make the squares and give of their time that we are able to make up the blankets”, says Margaret. “I made up nine blankets over Christmas. It’s a bit of an obsession,” she admits.
Margaret Kelleher also crochets turbans using cotton yarn for people with sensitive skin.
These are available at the Girls Club as are knitted or crocheted breast prosthesis. These ‘Knitted Knockers’ are made by Ann Cooke, for women who have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Dedicated individuals and craft groups also keep the Girls Club supplied with a steady stream of beautifully crafted blankets. Whenever a batch of blankets is ready, Linda Goggin James delivers them to cancer wards in the Cork University Hospital, and the adjoining Maternity Hospital, as well as to the Bon Secours, South Infirmary, Mercy Hospital and Marymount Hospice.
“Here in the Girls Club, it’s not about your illness, it’s about hope, laughter, and having the craic,” says Anne White from the Knit N’Natter group.
Diagnosed with cancer five years ago, Anne is now doing really well apart from a fall at Christmas that damaged her collar bone and arm. Even though Anne’s arm was in a sling she still came along to the Thursday morning knitting and crochet session.
Equally dedicated is Sara Woods who travels up by bus from Dungarvan every Thursday morning. Originally from Zambia, Sara has been living in Ireland for the past three years. She has her own knitting machine and makes a blanket a week for cancer patients.
Sara loves the sense of solidarity and belonging that comes with being part of the Knit N’Natter group.
“I’ll be 88 in August”, Una Dineen, from Model Farm Road, tells me. She always loved knitting and got involved when her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Thankfully, Una’s daughter is doing very well and is delighted that her mother is enjoying coming to the Girls Club.
“Walking through that pink door was the best thing I ever did,” claims Mary Nott. She and her mother, Noreen Stafford, came along to learn how to crochet and made lasting friendships in the process.
“I love it here; the people here are my friends. The Girls Club has done wonders for me”, acknowledges Josie Jones from St Luke’s. Josie first came to the centre following her breast cancer diagnosis but now she volunteers at the centre every day, cleaning up and helping out wherever needed.
“I suffer from depression so coming here gives me a reason to get up and get dressed every morning,” Josie points out.
“People can feel very isolated, frightened and depressed when they get a cancer diagnosis”, says Anne Goggin, sister of Linda. “The Girls Club helped my friend get through so many bad times. Everybody here helps everyone else,” she emphasises.
The Girls Club Cork provide a range of services including free counselling, therapies and workshops for people affected by cancer.
“There is a constant stream of people coming in looking for help” says Linda Goggin James.
“We’re dealing with eight or nine new cases every week. We really need a big company who would be willing to take us on as their charity,” Linda stresses.
You will find The Girls Club Cork, at 26 St Paul’s Avenue, Cork City. For more, contact 021-4949090 or call 087-0948921 or check them out online at www.thegirlsclubcork.ie and www.blanketsofhopecork.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org