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With a possible 15,000 labor hours of quilt making by hand, help is needed to wrap Nassar survivors in quilts of empowerment.
Fervently stitching amid the vendors at August’s Eastside Folklife Festival, quilters sewed messages of support and hope written down by attendees into quilt squares that will make up 500 quilts, which will then be distributed to all 332 Larry Nassar sexual abuse survivors.
“I almost ran out of fabric,” said quilt maker Beth Donaldson. “I cut and prepared 150 pieces, and we almost used all of them. When we explained to people what it was for, they were very few that didn’t want to help.”
Collaborating with the Small Talk Child Assessment Center for abused children, Lansing co-authors of “Quilts and Health” Marsha MacDowell, Donaldson and Clare Luz started the Teal Quilt Project to make quilts for the Nassar survivors in late June. Teal is the color of sexual assault awareness.
Donaldson, who has 30 years of quilt making experience, said it is important to give survivors a choice of several quilts.
“If they all look alike it could be a stamp on the forehead. Whereas this way, they can take the label off and think this it’s just a pretty quilt,” she said.
Attendees of the Eastside Folklife Festival were very supportive, Donaldson added.
“While the community was writing these messages, I had two of my friends on sewing machines, sewing them into quilt squares,” Donaldson added.
With around 30 hours of labor required for each quilt, Donaldson said, it will take a significant amount of labor to achieve the Teal Quilt Project’s goal.
The Lansing Quilting Guild and Country Stitches are pledging to help with this endeavor, said Donaldson. “One person already sent a quilt from Florida.”
There are ways to help besides quilting, Donaldson said. “We are raising money that will go to pay quilters and buy the filling and backing pieces.”
“It gives me chills to think that these women are putting in all this time to create something for someone they are probably never going to meet,” said Alex Brace, executive director and crisis counselor of Small Talk. “They are just doing this out of the kindness of their hearts,” he said.
Started in 2011, Small Talk is an organization dedicated to facilitating a trauma free environment for Ingham County children when they are interviewed for physical and sexual abuse investigations. They also offer free counseling and therapy after these investigations are over.
Receiving an unsolicited gift like a quilt shows survivors that the community believes in them, he added.
Quilts can be something to help survivors feel safe, Brace said. “Kids I’ve worked with had things they make and they carry with them, not as a reminder of their assault, but out of the reminder of their healing and their power. That is exactly what these quilts can do for these survivors.”
Seeing one person get away with this abuse for so long was surprising, Brace said, but the breadth of the problem of sexual abuse in this country is not.
“Back when I started at Small Talk seven years ago, seeing these traumas and things happen everyday on a consistent basis was a real eye opener,” he said.
“One of the things I look back to as a professional is: How many kids did I grow up with that had things happening to them, and nobody was listening to them, or they didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell?” Brace said although the experience is tragic, what Nassar survivors did shows that there is no shame in telling what happened.
“These brave girls and women who’ve come forth and spoke their truth, told their stories set a great example for survivors to follow across the country and across the world.”
To donate and volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/groups/tealquiltproject.