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A Mile of Pillowcases For Kids With Cancer---Made by Inmates

September 6, 2011 - Western Correctional Institution staff love to give their inmates opportunities to pay society back in meaningful ways. And no payback could be more meaningful than what inmates at the maximum-security prison in Cumberland have been doing for the past two years: making thousands of colorful pillowcases for children with cancer.

This fall, Cindy Kerr from ConKerr Cancer Foundation drove up from the Philadelphia area to claim the inmates’ latest gift: 2,044 more pillowcases. “I talk about you guys everywhere I go,” Ms. Kerr told the prison staff and inmates. “This is just amazing.”

Ms. Kerr, whose teenage son’s death from cancer several years ago was the inspiration for ConKerr Cancer, has now collected more than 5,000 inmate-made pillowcases from WCI inmates. The pillowcases are donated to children’s cancer hospital wards all over the nation and the world.

Former WCI Assistant Warden Dr. Harry Murphy began the project after seeing kids playing in a chemotherapy treatment room when he was battling his own cancer. Murphy asked the inmates in the prison sew shop if they wanted to do a little extra sewing on their own time when the shop had down time between re-sizing prison-issue clothing and other normal institutional sewing jobs. The men jumped at the chance.

It’s a heartwarming effort that WCI Warden Phil Morgan vows to continue. “I have a large number of men in the population who really want to give back any way they can,” he says.

ConKerr Cancer is drawing awareness to childhood cancers by declaring September to be Miles of Pillowcase Smiles Month. So WCI made sure that the number of pillowcases handed over to Ms. Kerr was 2,044---which works out to a mile if the pillowcases were laid end to end. Imagine: a mile of pillowcase smiles from inmates at a maximum-security prison.

DPSCS salutes the staff and inmates at WCI for their pillowcase sewing effort.