Palatine family remembers grandmother, friend by making 'comfort pillows' for children
A family in Palatine is dedicated to remembering a relative and a dear family friend by making pillows for children in hospitals and schools.
The Hermetet brothers -- Matt, 28; Jim, 25; and Danny, 22 -- and their mother, Katie Hermetet, created "Pillows 4 Patsy and Mo" to remember their grandma and mother, Pat Baker of Schaumburg, and her lifelong friend Mary Jo Paulson of Vernon Hills.
Both died of cancer -- Baker in 2009 and Paulson a few years later.
The "comfort pillows" are handmade and have been given to children at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, where Baker was treated, and, most recently at Creekside Elementary in Elgin, where Katie Hermetet works as a special-education teacher.
At the school, the pillows went to students who are outstanding or have family members dealing with health issues, Katie Hermetet said.
The two women -- who had big hearts and a great love for children -- met as children in Chicago, sharing a friendship that spanned six decades and many trips together, she said.
"Mary Jo, at my mom's wake, talked about how they never had a disagreement in their friendship," she said. "It was truly a great friendship."
The initiative is a way to commemorate both women while doing something good for others, Katie Hermetet said.
"Our students who received pillows from 'Pillows 4 Patsy and Mo' this past school year were surprised and deeply moved by this caring gift that honors them and their families," said Joel R. Pollack, principal at Creekside Elementary.
"Through this project, Ms. Hermetet reinforced an important value -- that we strive to support our students in every way we can."
Staff members from Northwest Community Hospital also praised the initiative.
"Pediatric patients love soft things that they can hold and keep near to them for safety and comfort, so a pillow is the perfect gift," said Rochelle Sowa, pediatrics manager at the hospital.
"Every donation we get from organizations like 'Pillows 4 Patsy and Mo' are amazing. Our patients love them."
Pillows, indeed, brought comfort to her mother in her final days, Katie Hermetet said.
"She was in tremendous pain, and the only thing that would make her feel better was to have something soft to put under her head or rubbed on her face," she said.
Jim Hermetet said Paulson was like a second grandma to him and his brothers. "We just felt like to celebrate both of them, we could do this initiative," he said.
It was particularly touching to give pillows to students at Creekside Elementary, he said. "A lot of them were super appreciative. A few of them even cried," he said.
His brother, Matt Hermetet, credited his mother with coming up with the idea. "She's always looking to help as many people as she can," he said.
"We all do it together," Katie Hermetet said. "We buy the material, we take a day and make all the pillows together. We had been doing it once a month, but because of the cost of the fabric, we had to cut back."
"Pillows 4 Patsy and Mo" would appreciate donations of soft cotton fabric and ultra plush Poly-Fil to help continue providing comfort to kids in need. The initiative does not have nonprofit status.
For more information, visit the Facebook page at Facebook.com/Pillows4PatsyAndMo.