The BRIDGES: A Center for Grieving Children at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital is near and dear to the hearts of the Puyallup Valley Lions Club.
The center was established in 1988 to support bereaved children struggling to understand a serious illness or death of a family member.
The Lions’ heart for BRIDGES was established after a former member’s children frequented the center after their sibling developed a serious cardiac health condition.
A few years later, BRIDGES coordinator Darren Wenz came to speak to the group about ways to get involved with the center. He mentioned volunteering and making little pocket-sized felt hearts called Feelie Hearts.
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Our motto is: We serve. It’s something we can do that is helping someone else. It just takes time. We don’t want to be a club that just writes checks like we do with our scholarships. We want to give back to the community.
Marilyn Fankhauser, Puyallup Valley Lions
“I looked at (the Feelie Hearts) and thought, ‘That’s something I can do,’” said longtime Lion Marilyn Fankhauser. “It spoke to my heart. It’s something so simple that we could do.”
An avid sewer, Fankhauser knew that stitching together the pocket-size hearts just took time and caring, something the Puyallup Valley Lions members had at their disposal. The group uses fleece fabric scraps given to them by Fankhauser’s daughter, who makes blankets for shelter animals, and member Chuck Waid’s wife, who makes blankets for veterans.
“We’ve never had to purchase any fabric,” Fankhauser said. “The batting that goes inside the hearts is donated as well.”
The group has an assembly line-type method for putting together the Feelie Hearts. A few in the group will cut the hearts out of a pattern, which are then given to Fankhauser, who sews the hearts together.
From there, Fankhauser passes the hearts on to the next group, which stuffs them and stitches them shut. Once the hearts are completed, group members take turns dropping them off at Mary Bridge. Fankhauser estimates the group donates an average of 60 Feelie Hearts per month to BRIDGES.
“They deliver shoeboxes full of Feelie Hearts,” Wenz said.
The Feelie Hearts are something tangible and tactile given to children and adults who frequent BRIDGES to feel loved and supported, Wenz said.
“Our motto is: We serve,” Fankhauser said. “It’s something we can do that is helping someone else. It just takes time. We don’t want to be a club that just writes checks like we do with our scholarships. We want to give back to the community.”