Kalie Klaysmat is seeking to bring comfort to veterans undergoing chemotherapy. Her newly established nonprofit, Quilts for Heroes, brings peninsula-made blankets to veterans who might need some extra warmth during a difficult time.
“We are hoping we can find an army of quilting angels here on the peninsula that will donate a quilt a year for veterans undergoing chemotherapy,” Klaysmat said. “That to us would be wonderful. It’s like getting a hug from somebody. We’re hoping that the veterans know, even if they don’t know who made the quilt, that they will know that somebody cared.”
On Thursday, Klaysmat and Vice President of Quilts for Heroes Jeanne Acton, delivered around 15 quilts to peninsula veterans undergoing cancer treatment.
Last fall, Klaysmat, and her husband came up with the idea for Quilts for Heroes, which is a nonprofit under the Bridges Community Network. The two have been working in nonprofits for more than 40 years and wanted to find a way to help veterans.
“Our theory when we started this, was that there were probably a lot of people on the peninsula who would love to be able to help a vet, but didn’t know how to do it,” Klaysmat said. “This gave me an outlet to be able to do things for veterans.”
Klaysmat approached her sewing group at Bearly Threaded Quilting, where she had been sewing with a group of women, and making quilts for the Kenai Peninsula Children’s Advocacy Center and Central Peninsula Oncology Center.
“So, I went to my friends (at Bearly Threaded Quilting) and said will you join me in this project, and that’s how (Quilts for Heroes) got started,” Klaysmat said.
The nonprofit was officially established around November, and by the end of 2018, the group had donated 138 quilts. Since 2019, the group has completed nearly 50 quilts.
Klaysmat said the quilts can offer comfort to those who are going through cancer treatment.
“They say the thing that always happens is they get chilled,” Klaysmat said. “So these quilts provide warmth.”
She said the group likes to say there is “a lot of love stitched into every quilt.”
“It makes a difference to know you’re not alone when you’re going through that,” Acton said.
“We can make sure they get delivered and take care of the logistics,” Klaysmat said. “But, we really need people who will take the time to volunteer. If they can do it out of their own stash, that’s awesome.”
Quilts can be any size, but Klaysmat said the ideal size is about 60 inches by 70 inches. Quilts are encouraged to be patriotic in some way, but many feature Alaskana themes and other designs. However, Klaysmat said the group strives to be as rule-free as possible.
“That’s our goal,” she said. “We don’t want to set a lot of rules and criteria for things.”
Quilters don’t know who receives their quilt, and veterans don’t know who quilted the blankets they receive.
“We don’t do it for a special person, because they are all special to us,” Klaysmat said.