Alyssa Watanapongse and her mom, Jennifer, with the port pillows Alyssa sewed for LivingWell participants.
Incoming St. Charles North High School freshman Alyssa Watanapongse, 13, has been on a mission this summer. The determined honor student taught herself how to sew “port pillows,” which attach to seatbelts to provide a cushion between a patient’s chemo port (a device placed under the skin to receive treatments) and seatbelt to make driving safe and comfortable.
Once Alyssa mastered her first pillow, she went on to make 50 more.
The driving force behind this titanic sewing project? Alyssa’s mom, Jennifer Watanapongse, is currently in treatment for breast cancer and has a chemo port.
“I use Alyssa’s port pillow when I’m buckled in the driver’s seat,” said Jennifer Watanapongse. “It really helps avoid any irritation to the sensitive skin where my port is located.”
Alyssa, an accomplished equestrian, is also working on a United Professional Horsemen’s Association “Ribbons of Service” fundraising and community service program through Meadow Brook Stables in Maple Park, Ill., where she trains and boards her horse.
At the beginning of her port pillow sewing project, Alyssa Watanapongse spent a lot of time thinking about the different ages of patients and interests they may have, and chose fabrics to personalize each one. Her workmanship on each pillow is meticulous, with centered fabric designs and straight stitching.
“My trainer is very involved in community service and encourages all of us to get involved,” said Alyssa.
The Ribbons of Service program spurred Alyssa into making 50 port pillows for LivingWell to give to other patients with a port for chemotherapy infusions.
“We get quite a few requests for these pillows, so we are thrilled to get them from Alyssa. They will be put to good use,” said Angela McCrum, director, LivingWell Cancer Resource Center. “It was such a treat to meet Alyssa and her mom, Jennifer, when they dropped off the pillows. Each one is beautifully handcrafted, which reflects Alyssa’s passion for this project and compassion for others. She is inspiring.”
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