By Dedra Cordle
As a wide receiver on the Central Crossing High School varsity football team, Anthony Lowe is used to running patterns. As cornerbacks, Tye Bradley and Jalen Coles are used to identifying them. But the trio had to admit they were out of their depth as they laid their eyes on an entirely new one.
Draped over the table before them in the school’s cafeteria was a festively adorned pattern of fabric complete with renderings of Pikachu, one of the more popular Pokémon characters. To their right were these things called rotary cutters and fabric shears and to their left were grid rulers to help them make the perfect cut. Though the instructions seemed basic enough – cut out rectangles until the sheet of fabric is used – the seniors were hesitant to begin.
“I have no idea what I am doing,” said Coles. “I have never once cut fabric, or even thought about cutting fabric, in my life.”
“Me neither,” said Bradley.
“Not me,” said Lowe as his teammates pulled the fabric tight so he could make a cut. “But we’re going to try our best.”
All around them, the scene was the same: teenage boys sitting around tables with rotary cutters around their fingers, bright cotton patterns before them and a look of caution mixed with interest on their faces.
“It’s been fun to watch them do this,” said Trevor White, head coach of the varsity football team. “Sewing and cutting is not traditionally our ball of wax.”
It was early in the football season last year when White envisioned this scenario. Well, maybe not this exact scenario but something quite similar.
“I wanted to get them more involved in volunteerism,” he said. “I always tell them that it doesn’t matter what their record is on the field, that what matters is what they do off of it.”
At that time, he challenged them to raise funds for breast cancer awareness – October is the month they wear pink on the field to support the cause – and was impressed by their willingness and dedication to get active.
“It might be because there have been so many of us affected by cancer,” White said. “Some of them lost loved ones, some have loved ones going through it, so it was really important to them that they do as much as they could.”
Hundreds of dollars were raised with all the proceeds going to The Turban Project, a local non-profit organization that makes free surgical masks and fashionable head wear for cancer patients throughout the world.
“Coach White told me that he wanted to find an organization where 100 percent of their funds went toward the cause and was not broken up to go to executives,” said Tanya Tiegler, president of The Touchdown Club. “So I looked around online and discovered this wonderful organization.”
When they presented the check to the organization for $700 during halftime of a game last year, they decided raising funds was just not enough.
“We wanted them to get a hands-on experience,” said Tiegler. “We wanted them to really know that what they do is going to have a positive impact on the lives of others.”
After some scheduling conflicts, the school and the organization set up a date in late October where yards of fabric would be brought to school in order for the members of the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams to become ‘volunteer angels.’
“That is what I call anyone who has a hand in creating the masks and head wear for those in need,” said Kathy Braidich, founder of The Turban Project. “They are true angels to me.”
Because a vast majority of the team were novice art and crafters, they were assigned to cut fabric which would be made into surgical masks for men, women and children.
“We didn’t want to overwhelm them when they are in the very beginning stages,” said volunteer Bet Brown. “As you can see, there is not a sewing machine in sight.”
For more than an hour, the team meticulously attacked the variety of fabric patterns, cutting out more than 600 front-facing masks to be delivered to their more skilled volunteer angel counterparts. When they arrive at their destination, the expert crafters will add a flannel backing and elastic bands to go over the ears and then they will be shipped off to more than 40 hospitals and cancers centers around the country.
As Braidich looked around at the cafeteria filled with teenage boys carefully cutting away, she said she hoped they realized how much of an impact they are making on the lives of others.
“It may not strike them at this moment that what they are doing is important,” she said, “but what they should know is they will be putting a smile on the face of someone who desperately needs it.”
In addition to delivering surgical/medical masks and head wear to hospitals, The Turban Project will also ship them to individual homes upon request.
For more information on the organization, visit its Facebook page or its website at www.turbanproject.com.