Comforting Patients One Stitch at a Time

Volunteering in Sandusky OH

When facing a medical crisis, oftentimes a small gesture can mean so much to those in need.

That is why two local women took the initiative to try and bring comfort to patients at Firelands Regional Medical Center by making Knitted Knockers and Prayer Quilts. These items are part of the Hearts and Hands from Home volunteer program run by Anne McGookey, director of volunteer services at Firelands.

“We are thrilled to have the addition of these two new special projects to the ‘Hearts and Hands from Home’ program and are grateful to all the ladies who are so giving of their time and talent,” Anne said. “It just shows that true compassion comes in all forms – and sometimes bright colors and nimble fingers!” 

Knitted Knockers

After undergoing a mastectomy, women can often find prosthetics that are commonly used can be very uncomfortable. They may also require the woman to wear special undergarments. 

Marilyn Beckman of Perkins Township had heard about something called Knitted Knockers and knew she wanted to find a way to make them for mastectomy patients at Firelands Regional Medical Center. 

The Knitted Knockers take the place of traditional prosthetics. Made from soft yarn and stuffed with polyester filling, Knitted Knockers are adjustable – the amount of stuffing can be changed and there are different sizes that can be made to match the other breast. They are also washable by hand and are air dried. 

volunteering in Sandusky OH

However, finding a group of knitters open to volunteering in Sandusky OH and help make them was difficult at first.

“They aren’t easy to make,” Marilyn said. “You have to use four different needles or a magic loop. It’s not something a lot of people do. There is also specific yarn; it has to be soft and comfortable.” 

With the help of Anne McGookey, director of volunteer services at Firelands Regional Medical Center, a group was found.

“When Marilyn brought the idea to me, I called my cousin who is part of a knitting group that meets throughout the area,” Anne said, stating that the group includes women volunteering in Sandusky, Vermilion, Huron, and Oberlin. 

Mary Bauer, patient navigator with the Center for Breast Care, has been handing out the Knitted Knockers to the patients she assists during their breast cancer journey.

“I’m grateful to those volunteering in Sandusky OH who are so kind to provide the yarn, and the time to knit the Knitted Knockers for women recovering from a mastectomy,” she said. “These women are faced with so many concerns after their surgery and during their recovery that it’s nice to have these to offer patients in hopes that it may help take one concern away.”

Marilyn said that making the Knitted Knockers is also therapeutic for those sewing them as well.

“This is not just for the ones receiving, but also for the ones making,” she said.

Prayer Quilts

Rita Thomas of Port Clinton wants those who are going through a time of crisis to feel like they aren’t abandoned. That is why she began making Prayer Quilts for patients at Firelands who are facing a medical event.

“People never say, ‘I’m going to have a massive heart attack at 2:30 on Tuesday’,” she said. “No one plans deeply for important events like this. In times like this, you can feel like you have been abandoned.”

volunteer opportunities in healthcare

The project is part of the Ohio Star Quilters Guild of Port Clinton. Rita said that for the Prayer Quilts, they take scrap fabric in light and dark colors, turn them into 30 10” squares, and piece them together. The quilts are a cotton fabric with a fleece backing.

“As you are sewing, you pray for the recipient of the quilt,” she said. “You pray for their needs and that they are comforted in their distress. This project is to say God knows that you are going through a tough time and people you don’t even know are praying for you.”

Currently, patients of University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center and Firelands Inpatient Rehabilitation Center are the areas of focus for the Prayer Quilts, said Anne McGookey, director of volunteer services at Firelands.

The guild is looking for additional people to help make the quilts.

“If you know your way around a sewing machine, this is a good project to start with,” Rita said. “At the end of the day, we are all spirited deep down and no man is an island. You realize it when going through a significant crisis. And sometimes we heal our own wounds when we do things for others.”

Skillful Volunteering in Sandusky OH: Handmade with Love

Healthcare volunteers play an integral role in many departments within the various buildings of Firelands Regional Medical Center and find the work challenging and rewarding. However, realizing that not everyone’s interests and availability will match our on-site needs, the hospital expanded its team of volunteers who have time and talents in the ‘handmade’ and contribution category. The ‘Hearts and Hands from Home ‘ volunteers contribute a variety of hand sewn, knitted and crocheted items that enhance the patient experience.

For many years, volunteers have been creating tray favors for our patients in recognition of special holidays. But ‘Hats of Love’, a project begun by a Firelands’ volunteer, was the impetus to Firelands expanding this special project and the need for an all-encompassing title for these talents. 

In addition to knitted hats, scarves and blankets, other items such as Wee Care Bears, abdominal and neck pillows, lap blankets and wheelchair bags are produced by many talented individuals and groups. Recently, volunteers throughout a broad geographical region are now contributing Knitted Knockers (inserts for mastectomy patients) and quilts for newly diagnosed patients. 

Also welcome are donations of current and gently- used magazines, puzzle and crossword books or other reading materials to help our patients and family members pass the time. 

Hand and Hearts from Home volunteers lovingly find the joy and reward in a very different way than the in-house volunteer, but their mission is of equal importance to providing for the care and well-being of our patients and visitors. To find out more about volunteering in Sandusky OH at Firelands, call Volunteer Services at 419-557-7460 or email