Quilts of Valour comforts injured soldiers and their families

Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by veterans, both past and present. But reflection is often a distant action that may not impact either veterans or citizens.

Organizers behind Quilts of Valour (QoV) recognized this distance and took action to help veterans and their families as they recover from the effects of “operational stress injuries” like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Lezley Zwaal, the founder and former president of Quilts of Valour-Canada Society, says the motivation to start QoV came from seeing a soldier on TV under a plain blanket after a suicide car bombing in 2006. The bombing killed two civilians and a Canadian diplomat, and injured three soldiers in Afghanistan.

Zwaal wanted to give quilts of comfort to the three injured soldiers but realized there was further need. The experience of giving the soldiers quilts was “so moving that I told everyone who would listen,” says Zwaal.

In 2009, the volunteer efforts and mentorship from the U.S. version of QoV were incorporated into the charity Quilts of Valour-Canada Society.

The goal of QoV is: “To ensure our injured Canadian Forces members are recognized for their service and commitment to our country. We give this support through the presentation of quilts to comfort our past and present Canadian Forces members in their time of need.”

For Remembrance Day, QoV representatives were invited to attend services across the country. Some presented quilts to veterans but most were showing support for the military.

“QoV comforts those Canadian Armed Forces members who still grieve,” says Zwaal.

But QoV isn’t only active during Remembrance Day.

In September, QoV had a booth at the Creative Stitches and Crafting Alive! show. There, people were able to see the quilts that would be given to veterans and their families. People could also vote on which quilt they liked best. The winning quilter was given a sewing machine.Sandy Carlile showcases one of the donated quilts at the Quilts of Valour booth during the Creative Stitches and Crafting Alive! Show at Spruce Meadows Equiplex Sept. 26 and 27.

Photo by Jaline Pankratz

This show was the fourth one for Sandy Carlile, the representative of QoV for Southern Alberta.

“We’ve been trying to be at quilt shows such as Creative Stitches,” Carlile says. “We’ve been trying to do that more just to get our name out there and get people familiar with us and then to let quilters know that we need their quilts.”

QoV also has a booth at Heritage Park and they made an appearance at the Calgary Stampede this year.

The quilts are all hand-made and donated to QoV. As of Nov. 10, 5,509 quilts have been presented to veterans and soldiers dealing with physical injuries and trauma.

And the quilts are all well used. “We’re finding that these quilts are so important for them. They get used, they are not just left to lay pretty on a chair,” says Carlile.

“When you figure these people have put themselves in harm’s way, and some of them have been badly injured or they’ve been through horrific experiences, and yet they feel that we have done so much for them to give them a quilt,” says Carlile. “To a lot of us it’s just what we do.”

The quilts are accepted from anyone, either working alone or in a guild, as long as specifications are followed.

The quilts must be 60 by 80 inches, preferably with cotton batting and stitched for stability, and they don’t have to be especially artistic. The quilts must also be pre-washed and pre-fluffed, without fabric softener.

“When you have somebody come up and say, ‘Thank you for my quilt, thank you for my quilt, thank you for my quilt,’ I start crying just thinking about it. It’s a very emotional thing on both sides,” says Carlile.

jpankratz@cjournal.ca