students creating ponchos

Albion Middle and High School students have made 50 ponchos and over 100 seatbelt covers for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Pluta Cancer Center this fall.

This is the second year Mrs. Shari Berg and Mrs. Kathy Winans’ classes have created ponchos and seatbelt covers for patients. According to Berg, the project was inspired by Kim Toombs, a substitute teacher in the District who makes and donates these items all year-round.

Dejeanna C., a high schooler in Mrs. Winans’ class, said that making the seatbelt coverings is her favorite part “because it is soft and [she] likes the fabric.”

As a cancer survivor, Toombs said that, when she went through treatment, having something like a poncho or seatbelt cover to help keep her comfortable helped a lot.

“Some patients have ports for their treatment,” Toombs explained. “The seatbelt coverings help make riding in the car more comfortable.”

Since January 2023, she has made 360 ponchos for patients, not including the ponchos she helped ACS students make.

“I keep track of the number of ponchos I make each year and it’s more than I’ve done in the past,” Toombs said. “The sad reality is that, while I am increasing the number of ponchos I am making this year, the [Pluta Cancer] center told me the average age of patients receiving treatment is declining.”

According to Toombs, on average, more than one person starts treatment at the Pluta Cancer Center per day.

All of the funds for the fabric and materials for the projects was provided by the staff members at Albion Middle School. Each Friday, staff members donate to a cause in order to “dress down.” This fall, members chose to donate to Mrs. Berg’s and Mrs. Winans’ students and help make a difference in the greater Albion community.

Originally, the goal was for students to make 31 ponchos. With at least one new patient receiving treatment daily, on average, that would cover one month of patients at the center.

“I love doing this [making a difference],” Kayla S. said. “Cutting out [the pattern] is fun and easy. I’m good at it and it’s easy to help.”

The students are still working to finish the seatbelt coverings and have plans to use “literally every scrap of material from this project to give back to others,” according to Berg.

“The scraps of fabric have been saved and we have been connected to a lady who uses the scraps to make dog beds that she donates to local shelters,” Berg explained. “We will be using the bigger scraps to make dog toys for Paws Animal Shelter!”

The best part, according to Emily L., a student in Mrs. Berg’s class, has been “working with [her] friends and helping others by making them comfortable.”