‘More than just medicine’: How this yearlong Young Women’s project brought hope to kids with cancer

HOUSTON, Texas — After a herculean effort that included more than 200 people and 1,000 hours of work and spanned almost an entire year, young women of the Spring Texas Stake enjoyed the fruits of their labors in a very touching and serious way.

Their community service project focused on making yarn wigs for pediatric cancer patients at Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric cancer center in the country. Not only are the wigs colorful and fun, but they also serve a functional purpose. As a result of radiation and chemotherapy, children cancer patients almost always experience hair loss.

So, on Jan. 2, a group of young women and their leaders went to visit child cancer patients and their families at the Houston, Texas, hospital and provided them with the yarn wigs.

Kim Johnson, the Young Women leader for this effort, noted that the project started in January 2018. “I wanted them (the young women) to think outside of themselves and see that they have the power to touch a life no matter what their age is.” Johnson said. “Also, to experience putting in the time and effort to get the reward.”

The Garners with their daughter Ella, who has spent 40 days in the hospital prior to this round of treatment.
The Garners with their daughter Ella, who has spent 40 days in the hospital prior to this round of treatment.

Ellen Bennett, from the Donor Relations Department at Texas Children’s Hospital, readily agreed that service groups like this were beneficial to the patients and their families.

“(It) means a lot to them to know that someone is thinking about them … and doing something for them and making their day a little bit easier. We really appreciate that somebody thinks about us here and helps out.”

Hallie Fielding, an adult leader for the young women, said, “Even during girls camp in the spring of last year, we had 140 girls and 20 to 30 leaders working on this project. It’s important to have fun at camp, but it’s also important to do something meaningful.”

Following themagicyarnproject.com pattern, various tasks were assigned. About 15 people who were experienced at crocheting made the beanies ahead of time. “An elderly sister from the Imperial Oaks Ward crocheted all the crowns on top of the wigs,” Fielding said. “She’s amazing.”

Lauren Billat and Ashlyn Hall of the Spring Texas Stake carry boxes of yarn wigs to distribute to kids with cancer at the Texas Children’s Hospital.
Lauren Billat and Ashlyn Hall of the Spring Texas Stake carry boxes of yarn wigs to distribute to kids with cancer at the Texas Children’s Hospital.

In spite of their difficult medical condition, many patients continue to find joy and have aspirations. Ten-year-old Ella Garner fully intends to engage in a serious snowball fight someday soon. Because her family lives in Pearland, Texas, that’s a more ambitious goal than it sounds.

When Ella was asked what she thought of her new yarn wig, she said, “I love it, it reminds me of snowflakes.”

Her mom, Shauna Garner, said Ella had already been in the hospital 40 days prior to this round of treatment. “As a parent, you are overwhelmed with so much on a daily basis,” she said. “When there are people who are willing to volunteer their time in multiple ways by creating this, it’s no small task. To see her spirits soar and see the smile on her face, it brings such happiness to your heart. That’s what you hope for because healing is about so much more than just medicine. In the next few days when she goes into the next round of chemo, this memory will make the next few hours and days that we endure a little bit easier, and so we’re so grateful.”

A few young women from the Spring Texas Stake gather with as they prepare to personally serve children receiving cancer treatment. From left, youth leader Hallie Fielding, Ellie Blackburn, Savannah Morris, Rachel John, Ashlyn Hall, Annette Pinto, Lauren Billat, Sofia Booth, and Kim Johnson.
A few young women from the Spring Texas Stake gather with as they prepare to personally serve children receiving cancer treatment. From left, youth leader Hallie Fielding, Ellie Blackburn, Savannah Morris, Rachel John, Ashlyn Hall, Annette Pinto, Lauren Billat, Sofia Booth, and Kim Johnson.

Husband Jay Garner added, “I want nothing more than to see her smile, that’s all I want.”

Megan Turner said that though her daughter Kinsley needs to come to appointments for treatment, understandably, it is really difficult for her. But this time when she saw the young women bringing their yarn wig gifts, she stopped crying. “She’s so joyful, and she’s smiling still,” Turner said. “Thank you so much.”

When asked how she felt seeing these children with cancer receive the yarn wigs, Savanah Morris from the Spring Texas Stake said, “It makes you feel extremely grateful that you are able to serve these people. … It makes you feel happy because it lights up their day.”

Young woman Rachel John noted that though it was a large project, “it was 100 percent worth it, and I’d do it all over again. Not only did it bring joy to the children and their families, but it also brought the young women who served closer together.”

Annette Pinto added, “We’re serving like Jesus Christ did. It’s the pure love of Christ, and we feel so good. It’s like a wholesome feeling, that we can serve like He did.”

Asked if she felt like the Lord was happy with what they did, she responded, “Absolutely.”