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LCC Student Life Partners with Olivia Kay Foundation to Sew, Stuff and Provide Handmade Pillows for Ill Children

October 12, 2016

LANSING, MICH. - Chad and Lisa Borodychuk learned about the power of compassion from their daughter Olivia. Today, the DeWitt parents are softening hearts at Lansing Community College (LCC) through a project that brings comfort to children like Olivia who have a terminal illness or severe impairment.

"We're extremely proud of Olivia," says Chad, the director of Corporate Training and Continuing Education at LCC's Business and Community Institute. "She's a very special girl and has brought an entire community together. She has taught us a lot through her ability to forgive despite everything she's been through."

Seven-year-old Olivia has Alexander Disease, a rare and incurable form of leukodystrophy that affects the nervous system. The devastating disorder destroys myelin—that fatty covering that insulates nerve fibers and promotes the transmission of nerve impulses. Olivia was diagnosed at 2 and she cannot walk, talk or eat. She requires around-the-clock care at home or through the pediatric intensive care unit at Sparrow Hospital.

Since 2015, the Borodychuks have been donating handmade pillows to hospitals around the state—all with the intent of bringing smiles and comfort to ill children and their families. Lisa had been making pillows to help position Olivia in bed or during a medical procedure. When hospital staff raved about the pillows and asked how they could get some for other children, Chad and Lisa enlisted Lisa's mother, multiple volunteers, and several local organizations to ramp up production.

"We make pillows in a variety of sizes to help provide relief from equipment or pressure or to support a child's body in relation to their care and treatment," says Lisa. "We make them using cotton and flannel with designs that appeal to babies, children and teens such as sports themes, solid colors, and cartoon characters."

In the spring of 2016, a group of LCC employees led by Student Life Director Patti Ayers, Assistant Professor of History Anne Heutsche, and Administrative Assistant Margo Whalen, joined Chad and Lisa in their quest. Since then, the community service project sponsored by the LCC Student Life Office has worked with volunteers from the Catholic Community of St. Jude in DeWitt to sew about 1,000 pillowcases.

"We're just delighted to have an opportunity to do this in the wider community," says Terry Humenik, pastoral associate with St. Jude’s. "For us, this is all part of what we do to provide compassion and care, and what we're all about."

In November, the LCC Student Life Office will invite volunteers from the College and the community to join an all-day pillow stuff-a-thon. The goal, says Heutsche, is to complete 2,000 pillows to deliver to pediatric patients at 13 Michigan hospitals and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"We welcome anyone with two hands and a heart to come and help," says Heutsche. "Come as one. Come with friends. Come with your family. It's humbling to see how many people volunteer to serve those in need."

The pillow project is part of a larger group of services coordinated through the Olivia Kay Foundation. The Borodychuks established the foundation in 2014 to help improve the quality of life for children with serious health issues, provide support to care networks, raise funds for research, and build awareness about Alexander Disease.

"A lot of people see what Olivia has been through and become more compassionate," says Lisa. "She has not only changed Chad and I, she has changed those around her. She's changing hearts."

For information about the Olivia Kay Foundation pillow project and how you can help, visit oliviakayfoundation.com. You can also contact Margo Whalen at LCC at whalenm2@lcc.edu.

About Lansing Community College

Lansing Community College is Michigan's third largest community college with approximately 15,000 students attending each year. LCC offers courses in general education for those interested in transferring to a four-year institution, career and workforce development, developmental education, and personal enrichment. To meet the professional development and training needs of regional employees, the college offers customized programs for credit, non-credit, and continuing education. The University Center at LCC offers students the opportunity to earn bachelor's and master's degrees from six partner universities on the downtown LCC campus. For more information, visit lcc.edu.

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