Benjamin Levine of Saint James, New York, will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah on October 11, 2014.
For his Mitzvah Project, he decided to support ConKerr Cancer, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of chronically-ill children as they undergo treatment.
Benjamin (pictured left) calls his project, Stitches By Ben and he is sewing beautiful pillowcases to bring joy to children in hospitals on Long Island and in New York City.
We spoke with Ben to get more details on how he came up with this idea:
MM: Can you give us details of your Mitzvah Project?
BL: I am making pillowcases that will be donated to ConKerr Cancer, a charity that provides them to children experiencing long term stays in the hospital. The pillowcases are made by volunteers, like me and they are then brought to drop off sites where they are washed, ironed and packaged and then sent on to hospitals in the area. The Long Island chapter delivers to several hospitals including Winthrop University Hospital’s Pediatrics, Winthrop’s Cancer Center for Kids, Memorial Sloane Kettering’s Pediatrics, Cohen Children’s Hospital, and Stony Brook’s Pediatric Cancer Center are the locations that will receive my completed work.
MM: Does your project have a start and end date, if so what are they?:
BL: There is no end date to this project. I plan to continue to make pillowcases past my Bar Mitzvah.
MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project/charity?
BL: I was inspired by my home and careers teacher and class in 6th grade and the sewing club I joined that year. While waiting for projects to be shipped, the entire club worked on learning how to measure, sew and complete pillowcases that were all donated to the local chapter of ConKerr Cancer. In 7th grade, October 2013, I began thinking about how I could participate in a Mitzvah Project that would be meaningful to me. When I was 1-year old I had to spend 8 days as a patient in Stony Brook Hospital. My mom and dad were really scared and though I don’t remember it, I have pictures and can see how little I was when it happened. After going home, I had to have 6 weeks of IV antibiotics and a visiting nurse before another procedure. When I was 8-years old, the doctors realized a piece of my IV port had been left in and I had to have a small surgery to remove it and that I do remember that, it was scary. Also, my Bubbe is a cancer survivor and is currently undergoing treatment. So, I combined my interest of crafts and sewing and rolled that together with the desire to do something to help ease the experience of a kids hospital stay.
Ben hard at work on his sewing machine
MM: In your own words, what does it mean to you to do a Mitzvah Project for your Bar Mitzvah?
BL: It feels good to know that someone who is sick may get the feeling of help and support from a complete stranger. I don’t need them to know it was me who made them a pillowcase. Hopefully the designs, patterns and soft fabrics will bring them smiles and happiness.
MM: What are you doing to spreading the word?
BL: Since the fall, I have been asking family and friends for help. I sent out flyers at my synagogue and left a laundry basket for collections. My mom displayed a flyer in the school where she works. Throughout the months, my mom posted status updates to her Facebook account along with photos and this seems to have generated the most buzz and support! Whenever we have company I make sure to pull out my bucket of completed projects, and spread the word. Close friends immediately reacted and brought over fabric, others sent notes and cash. We set up a small production line in our dining room. A sweatshop in Saint James was born! Over 25 families have already contributed to the more than 100 completed pillowcases so far.
MM: For how long can people donate to this charity?
BL: You can make donations directly to www.conkerrcancer.org or contact the local coordinator if you want to drop off fabrics that are 100% cotton. There are chapters in many states.
MM: Anything else we need to know about your Mitzvah Project?
BL: At first I planned to make 50 pillowcases but since my mom helps to cut the fabrics sometimes, I have exceeded my first goal and now I hope to have finished at least 125 by October 2014.
We thank Ben for sharing this terrific Mitzvah Project with our readers. If your child has a past, present or future Mitzvah Project that you would like to share, reach us at info@MitzvahMarket.com.