Patriotic pillows comfort injured troops and a Heartland family

Patriotic pillows comfort injured troops and a Heartland family
By: Lauren Keith
ANNA, Ill. - Almost anywhere you go in Union county, you'll see signs asking you to be apart of the "Patriotic Puppy Project." The puppies aren't real; they're actually a pillow in the shape of a puppy.  This shape has a specific function, I'll explain later, but first some background into this project.

Outside the Campground Church in rural Anna, Illinois, you can tell the 35-member congregation supports American troops by the yellow ribbons placed on trees.  Inside, that support is even stronger. "We know all these ladies here are here because they love our country, love our soldiers, and support everything they do," says Donna Sheffer.

Sheffer spearheads the large sewing project. Her son, Daniel, was recently injured in the Iraq war. A roadside bomb struck the humvee he was riding in. That blast later forced the amputation of one of his legs. Daniel's now recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a place his mom recently visited. "We were at Walter Reed for a month, and the love and support they showed us is just unreal.  We went with one suitcase and we came back with 6 full ones. This just shows the love and support people have for my son, Daniel," says Donna.

Now, Donna wants to give some of that back.  She's enlisted the help of her friends, who meticulously sew the patriotic puppy pillows. Very soon, the ladies will ship these pillows to other injured service members at Walter Reed. The project starts with a bolt of red, white and blue fabric that's cut into tiny squares, then sewn together, stuffed with polyfill, and adorned with yellow ribbons. Some volunteers even personalize the pillows letting the recipient know where the pillow was made. "I want them to feel like there's a lot of love coming from southern Illinois," says Martha Ann Webb, a volunteer.

But you might be wondering: why would a tough soldier want a puppy pillow? As it turns out, these pillows have several functions. "For instance, my son's leg is amputated, so he can put it there for support.  If the soldier is in a wheelchair, they can put it under their legs, their necks.  If they have an arm missing, it can easily fit underneath the shoulder for support, or they can just hug it close as they recover," says Sheffer.

Through this project, Donna hopes to help numerous American service members, many she doesn't even personally know. "When you get back from Walter Reed, you ask what can I do? I've just always been one to  give more than to receive and this where we started the project," says Donna.

It's a project that will surely touch the injured troops, but one that also comforts this military mom. and brings a smile to her face. It also comforts other local military families, like Sandy Boaz. Her son is in the Navy. Both she and Donna believe this project also has a spiritual tie.

They both hold a conversation they had before this project began, very near and dear to their hearts. "I told Donna I just turned my son's care over to the Lord because my worrying about it wasn't going to help.  She called me a week after Danie's injury happened and said she really believed God put me in her path that day, to prepare her for what was to come," said Sandy. 

As this assembly line of caring and concern continues, these local women say they'll keep sewing these puppies as long as the American troops might need them. "It's just showing how much love we have for our country," says Donna.

If you'd like to get involved with the project or to receive a kit containing the sewing pattern, contact Donna Sheffer at (618) 697-4089. 
If you can't sew and would like to donate money towards the project, a fund has been set up at the church.  Just write in the memo section of the check, "Patriotic Pillows," and send the check to:
Campground Church
2465 Lick Creek Road
Anna IL 62906

You can also find out more ways to support American troops by visiting this web site: