It is always amazing that foldable kayaks, golf clubs, gold prospecting equipment, keyboards and guitars with sound systems, woodworking tools, beads by the thousands, and elaborate sewing machines are buried in the nooks and crannies of RVs as they travel the country, but they transport much more—people with exceedingly compassionate hearts.
I saw an example at an ice cream social at the North Ranch RV park in Congress, Arizona, where Jane Moline and some of her dedicated volunteers showed several pieces of “adaptive clothing” they have made. For more than two years, RVers at the park have been participating in Sew Much Comfort, a project to provide customized clothing for wounded service men and women.
As often happens, Sew Much Comfort exploded out of need, but not originally for the military. Ginger Dosedel’s young son, Mike, was being treated for a rare pediatric cancer at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. through his father’s military service. The boy was stuck in a drafty “rear view” gown in the hospital, and his regular clothes didn’t fit over the casts and metal braces he sometimes had to wear. Realizing his discomfort, Ginger created clothing Mike could easily dress himself in and wear comfortably to school and life outside the hospital.
Mike then noticed that his physical therapy buddies injured in war were having problems fitting their clothes over prosthetics and casts. He asked his mom if she could make some of her innovative clothing for his older friends. She obliged and after distributing only a few modified pieces, the demand grew like Topsy. By late December of 2004, Ginger and her friend, Michele Cuppy, had started a nonprofit organization, Sew Much Comfort, to carry out the work. The need and the organization have both grown greatly since then.
Whether we RVers who live such privileged lives agree with the politics of war or not, these mostly young people need our support. We often forget our country is involved in deadly war half way around the world unless we have someone involved and it affects us in a deeply personal way.
Sew Much Comfort, which is headquartered in Burnsville, Minnesota, provides adaptive clothing free to wounded members of the military and National Guard. The ideas, suggestions, and copyrighted designs and instructions for this special clothing evolved with the participation of patients and medical personnel. The garments open from either side or both sides, with simple construction that fastens seams with Velcro and gives medical, physical and occupational therapy staff easy access to injury examination.
Returnees with bullet wounds, burns, head trauma, body and limb injuries, and amputations find the Sew Much Comfort adjusted clothing fits over fixator metal devices for arm or leg injuries, thick bandages, and cumbersome prosthetics and casts. Dress shirt buttonholes are sewn shut and a button sewn on top. Velcro is fastened beneath to open and close the shirt. Full-length access pants, lounge pants, sweat pants, swimwear, basketball-style athletic shorts, boxer shorts, and shirts for both men and women are designed to look and feel like “off the rack” civilian attire. Recipients experience a smidgen more dignity, comfort, independence and a boost to the morale. All this promotes quicker recovery.
Michele Cuppy, the current Sew Much Comfort president, is always on the lookout for further needs, new tips, ideas, and suggestions such as a softer Velcro or a different kind of needle that works better. Since the program’s inception, 100,000 pieces of adaptive clothing and comfort accessories have been shipped to military hospitals, clinics, the Veterans Administration and individuals in the United States, Germany, and combat surgical units in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and wherever service members are recovering from their injuries. Eighteen thousand garments were supplied in 2010 alone.
As the years go by and more injured military members attempt an escape from the backless hospital gowns, the need for Sew Much Comfort grows. The healing process sometimes changes the individual physical requirements and these needs are also met.
The Colorado Sew Much Comfort distribution facility ships raw material packets to volunteer seamstresses across the United States who use their sewing talents to modify clothing. Sew Much Comfort adaptation instructions are comprehensive and diagram specific. Volunteers return their first customized garments for a quality check that must meet the organization’s requirements. Completed shipments are then ready for requests from military units or individuals. Service members may order directly online even if they are not affiliated with a military facility. Military hospitals can order 24/7.
Tax-deductible donations help pay for shipping costs, operate the distribution center, and provide fabric, sewing supply kits and other materials to volunteer seamstresses.
At least two other Escapee RV parks, Rainbow’s End in Texas, and The Plantation in Alabama, are involved with Sew Much Comfort. Terilu and Craig Christen, both Air Force retirees, full-time RVers, and lifetime Escapees, are Sew Much Comfort’s roving representatives. They have promoted the program through the Escapee National Escapade, SMART National Musters (an RV club for veterans) and Family Motor Coach Association. With personal knowledge and compassion, Terilu and Craig believe in the Sew Much Comfort’s mission of giving comfort and dignity through free adaptive clothing to our wounded warriors.
Other RVers and seamstresses all over the U.S. are working with this project. Six to ten dedicated residents and traveling seamstresses at North Ranch have shipped 580 customized T-shirts, pants, and polo shirts, plus a special request for 25 lap robes, to Sew Much Comfort. Volunteers who do not sew participate by opening seams, pinning, cutting, sometimes ironing and…even writing a story. All work to a common goal.
If you don’t sew, the Sew Much Comfort website offers information on arranging a fund-raising event. Once a project is approved, they will send brochures, posters, and adapted clothing samples to help your fund-raising efforts.
The Sew Much Comfort website is at sewmuchcomfort.org. It is a chance to honor and support courageous wounded individuals whose lives have been changed in an instant and forever in the cause of freedom. They need our love and attention.
Follow RV Life columnist Sharlene Minshall’s blog, “The Silver Gypsy,” at rvlife.com.
Nikki is a writer and editor for Do It Yourself RV, RV LIFE, and Camper Report. She is based on the Oregon Coast and has traveled all over the Pacific Northwest.