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The Magic Needle Quilt Guild won national recognition in the Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for the most quilts donated by one group.
In July, nine members of the Magic Needle Quilt Guild traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., with 246 quilts packed in a truck and a van to donate to the Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge.
The members who took the quilts to Washington were Terri Harich, Brenda Marshall, Janet Nelson and her husband, Ron, Judy Phillips, Emma Thompson, Pat Ussery, Marjorie Vincent and Christine Williams.
Williams said the guild’s 20 members worked diligently from Jan. 23 until the end of July making the 45-inch-by-54-inch lap quilts for wheelchair bound ALS patients. They met each Thursday at the Prime Time for Seniors Center on South Plantation Road, Lancaster.
Some members of the Piecemakers Guild participated in the challenge, also.
The 246 quilts were presented to Kathy Thompson, who owns and operates Quilter’s Dream Batting Co. in Virginia Beach.
Thompson was inspired to offer the challenge to quilters as a means of raising awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and to aid in research for ALS. She is very familiar with ALS because her son, Josh Thompson, was diagnosed with the disease several years ago.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a fatal, debilitating disease that strikes unexpectedly and has no known cure. It causes the deterioration of specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called motor neurons, which control muscle movement.
About 30,000 Americans have ALS at any given time, according to the ALS Association.
As the illness progresses, patients lose their ability to walk, talk and breathe. Patients usually die within two to five years of diagnosis, according the ALS Association.
Guild member Janet Nelson also has ALS. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2008.
“I sang for many years and that was the first thing I had to give up because of my speech,” Nelson said in a past interview. “I taught quilting for quite a number of years and I can no longer do that, either. It (ALS) is an insidious thing that just keeps stealing parts of you a little at a time.”
She can sew for a short time, using aids provided for her by the ALS Center at Carolinas Medical Center. That, along with the local ALS/MDA support group that meets at Springs Memorial Hospital, helps Nelson deal with her condition.
The Magic Needle Quilt Guild adopted the Hopes and Dreams quilt project in Nelson’s honor.
“I’m very fortunate to have a very supportive family and all these caring friends I’ve made through quilting,” Nelson said.
“That’s really been a blessing.”
“This isn’t your typical ‘give back to the community’ service project, said guild member Emma Thompson.
“It just kills us to see what she’s going through,” she said of Nelson. “She does absolutely beautiful work and it hurts us to see this happening to somebody who has such a passion for quilting. It’s unbelievable what this lady can do. For me, it has become very personal.”
Initially, the group thought making 150 to 180 was doable, but they far surpassed that goal.
More than 1,000 quilts were donated from every state in the country, as well as from Canada and England.
Kathy Thompson will select some of the quilts to go to the National ALS Foundation in Washington, D.C., where they will be auctioned at a silent auction.
Others will be displayed at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Some will be raffled or auctioned in an online auction.
The rest will be distributed nationwide to ALS patients.
One hundred percent of the funds from the quilts will go to research for ALS.
The Magic Needle and Piecemakers Quilt Guilds will hold their Across Generations quilt show from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Bradley Building of the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. Projects include pillowcases for the hospital’s children’s ward, baby blankets for abused children and quilts for ALS patients. For details, call (803) 872-7309.