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Wednesday, June 19 News

Gift of sensory quilts ‘made a huge difference in the lives of our seniors’

Love given is love received.

That sentiment recently abounded at Candlewood Valley Health & Rehabilitation Center in New Milford when the family of the late Arlene Goodbou presented special gifts to residents.

Shelley Killian and Amy Thibodeau, daughters of Goodbou, bestowed nearly 40 handmade fidget/sensory quilts to residents.

Goodbou resided at the center for two and a half years until she died this past April.

“She had such a giving heart,” Killian said of her mother, who would have turned 84 on the day of the presentation and was honored by staff and residents who sang “Happy Birthday” during the presentation.

The quilts vary in size but are all colorful and contain a variety of textures and objects.

They include ribbons that can be pulled, beads and buttons that can be spun, zippers that can be opened and closed, lace that can be felt, calculator buttons that can be pressed, soft toys that can be pressed to squeak, terrycloth dolls that can be hugged, stretchy bands that can be tugged, Velcro strips that can be pulled back and forth, small photo frames that can be viewed, and more.

All of the accessories are attached to the quilts.

Each is adorned with a small angel, added by Killian and Thibodeau in honor of their mother and the project aptly named Arlene’s Angels.

Resident Madeline Gale was so impressed with the beautiful gifts that even after being given her quilt, she admired every other quilt given to fellow residents and expressed awe.

“I’m so thankful for this,” said resident Doris “Sue” Snodgrass as she received her quilt.

The idea of fidget quilts stemmed from Killian’s visits with her mom, who often twisted her fingers in a crocheted blanket.

Killian said she noticed other residents doing similar things with their hands, such as pulling on a zipper or tugging on a blanket.

Goodbou was given a fidget spinner and she used it, but she would get frustrated when she dropped it and could not easily retrieve it.

Upon Goodbou’s death, Killian conducted research and discovered the concept of fidget/sensory quilts, which have shown to be beneficial for a variety of individuals, including those suffering from a variety of health challenges, such as dementia.

Immediately, she felt called to make quilts and donate them to Candlewood.

The goal was to make 25 quilts. Thirty-eight were presented.

Word about Killian’s project spread to her sister, and then friends across the country who happily offered to make a quilt or two and send them to the sisters.

“Amy I just started sewing and it just took off,” Killian said.

Thibodeau had never sewn before, but once her sister set her up with a sewing machine, she never looked back.

Staff considered fabric pattern, colors and themes, and each resident’s personality and likes when selecting quilts to give each resident.

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“These two beautiful woman made a huge difference in the lives of our seniors here,” said recreation director Kathleen Horvath of Killian and Horvath’s generous gifts.

“Each resident’s heartfelt reaction to the gift of the sensory quilts brought tears of joy to my eyes,” Horvath said.

“We become ‘family’ here at Candlewood and are blessed to have shared in a part of Arlene Goodbou’s journey of life,” she said. “And her memory is still touching all of us here at Candlewood Valley.”

“The greatest act of kindness is giving to those in need,” Horvath summed up. “Amy and Shelley have made their mom proud and truly made a difference in the lives of our residents.”

Killian said she and her sister plan to annually present quilts to Candlewood, and would like to present them to others in need.

For information about the project, to make a quilt or to donate supplies for quilts, email shelleykillian@gmail.com or ladyrav42002@yahoo.com.