Constable: Woodturners help when sick kids' courage overflows

 
 
Posted6/16/2015 5:30 AM
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  • The Arlington Heights-based Chicago Woodturners club is donating dozens of handcrafted wooden containers to Lurie Children's Hospital as part of a "Beads of Courage" campaign for children undergoing treatment for serious health problems.

      The Arlington Heights-based Chicago Woodturners club is donating dozens of handcrafted wooden containers to Lurie Children's Hospital as part of a "Beads of Courage" campaign for children undergoing treatment for serious health problems. Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

  • As president of the Arlington Heights-based Chicago Woodturners club, Al Miokte of Mount Prospect will be donating dozens of handcrafted wooden containers to Lurie Children's Hospital as part of a "Beads of Courage" campaign for children undergoing treatment for serious health problems.

      As president of the Arlington Heights-based Chicago Woodturners club, Al Miokte of Mount Prospect will be donating dozens of handcrafted wooden containers to Lurie Children's Hospital as part of a "Beads of Courage" campaign for children undergoing treatment for serious health problems. Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

  • This bowl crafted by Al Miokte of Mount Prospect features an intricate pattern of two woods. The Arlington Heights-based Chicago Woodturners club is donating 65 handcrafted bowls to children undergoing treatment for serious health problems.

      This bowl crafted by Al Miokte of Mount Prospect features an intricate pattern of two woods. The Arlington Heights-based Chicago Woodturners club is donating 65 handcrafted bowls to children undergoing treatment for serious health problems. Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

Taking a hunk of wood from a downed tree and turning it into something beautiful lifts the spirits of Mount Prospect's Al Miotke. Doing that for a sick child makes that feeling even better.

"We do a number of charity activities every year, but this one is special," says Miotke, president of the Chicago Woodturners, a suburban-based club of woodworkers, which is donating handmade wooden bowls and containers to the "Beads of Courage" program for young patients at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. "I started watching some of these YouTube videos (of "Beads of Courage"), and they shake you up."

Developed by Arizona nurse Jean Baruch in 2003, the "Beads of Courage" program awards handmade beads to children to mark significant milestones in their treatments. A child might be given a bead for losing her hair, receiving a chemo treatment, undergoing a surgery, missing a day of school, spending a night in the hospital or showing courage in another way.

"Some of these kids have very long treatments. Some are here for months, but others are here for years," says Noe Mojica, the "Beads of Courage" coordinator for Lurie Children's oncology department, who works with Joe Weismantel of the cardiology department. "They can accumulate lots of beads."

Many children wear necklaces of their beads. But those can become too burdensome, and some kids don't want to put their treatment on public display.

More than 50 local members of Chicago Woodturners made 65 wooden bowls to donate to Lurie Children's Hospital, Miotke says. A couple are rainbow-shaped. Some feature bright colors.

Others are works of art. But all contain a button or other feature reading, "Beads of Courage."

"These boxes are a good addition because they can keep them safe," Mojica says, "It's a very handy thing for them to carry around. They can open them up and show them to people who want to learn more about their journey."

Members of the Chicago Woodturners started the project in January and finished earlier this month.

"I used it as an opportunity to do some mentoring," says Miokte, a retired engineer who has taught at wood-turning symposiums. The "segmented turning" bowls he made are a lush maple with pieces of rich reddish-brown African Padauk wood glued into an intricate pattern. A master craftsman, Miokte can make one of those bowls in 10 to 12 hours, he says.

The club has made "Pens for Troops" for members of the military, and donated handcrafted bowls that raise funds to fight hunger as part of the Empty Bowls project at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. Jumping into "Beads of Courage" was easy.

"For me, it was seeing the trials and tribulations these young kids go through and how they cherish these beads," Miokte says. "Most of these kids get 500 beads during their treatment. It's pretty amazing what these kids go through."

The local club, a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners, meets from 7-10 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at Christian Liberty Academy, 502 W. Euclid Ave. in Arlington Heights. The 175 members who pay the $25 annual dues include beginners, seasoned professionals and even acclaimed artists, such as Binh Pho of Maple Park. For information, visit chicagowoodturners.com.

"We're hoping to make this an annual activity," Miokte says of the "Beads of Courage" bowls, which are crafted from maple, walnut, cherry and more exotic woods.

Making the bowls makes everyone feel good.

"It goes really well with the Beads of Courage," Mojica says, "because art is medicine."

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