Ulla Blab from Elon, NC, volunteers her artistic talent to fashion soft, handcrafted "buddy pillows" in whimsical designs for our children undergoing cancer treatment. Her volunteer efforts began six years ago at the request of her daughter-in-law, Laurie Blab. Whenever Laurie would pass the pediatric unit on her way to her own chemotherapy treatment, she felt touched to do something special for these children. Laurie brought Ulla an example of a little pillow she thought would be the perfect size to comfort a child and Ulla made Laurie a couple of samples to consider. The two women agreed on the design that would serve as the pattern for over 500 handcrafted pillows since 2003.
Inspiration for the pillows comes from many sources: German fairy tales, books, magazines, friends and family. Ulla's oldest granddaughter, Sydney, age 8, offers ideas from her story books and has learned some of the simple stitches already.
Each pillow is a small production. Ulla must first make a design drawing, transfer the design to felt, hand-stitch the design to the custom pillow, add additional items to complement the scene, and seal it with love. Ulla does all of her cutting during the day and stitches during the evening hours while talking with her husband of 43 years, Alfred Blab, or listening to music together.
"Ulla's pillows have become more intricate over the years and have impeccable workmanship. Her designs are magical. It is such a joy to watch the children try and pick their favorite pillow. It is a hard choice…they seem to love them all," says Tina Shaban, manager of the Patient and Family Resource Center.
Laurie Blab lost her battle to cancer in the spring of 2003 at the age of 34. In honor and memory of her daughter-in law's courage and compassion, Ulla Blab continues to create her specialty pillows in an assortment of colors, characters, and designs. There are over 2000 hand stitches in each unique pillow. "Every stitch reminds me of that sweet, sweet girl," says Ulla of her daughter-in-law, Laurie. "If I can make one child's life brighter, it is well worth it."