By Victoria Sovran
For the News-Gazette
A hospital can be a frightening place for a child. One St. Cloud woman is doing her best to make them seem a little friendlier.
Toni Petrucci Casto sews handmade pillowcases for the children at Nemours Children’s Hospital. She was inspired to create something positive and uplifting when was undergoing radiation for cancer herself.
Casto noticed how many young children were at the hospital undergoing chemotherapy.
“They aren’t allowed any of their stuffed animals or blankets from home.
Since I sew, I called Nemours to see if they would accept pillowcases for the children,” said Casto.
The children “have bad immune systems and need items that are done carefully. I steam them, put them in a plastic bag and tape them shut. I drop them off and they have the nurses distribute them to the children,” Casto added.
Casto creates a wide range of pillowcase designs, anything to help put a smile on a child’s face. She makes everything from Hello Kitty to Superman pillowcases and football to holiday-themed pillowcases.
“I was told that they used the Halloween ones I made to put on the children for the parade they had at the hospital on Halloween,” Casto said.
Casto has now made over 2,100 pillowcases for the children at Nemours Children’s Hospital.
Each pillowcase Casto makes holds a special place in her heart.
“I am very happy to be able to make those sick children smile and so very thankful that I can keep making pillowcases. So many people have told me how much their child loved getting them and for them to be able to take home with them,” Casto said.
It takes one yard of cotton fabric for each pillowcase. Casto is grateful for all the help and supplies she receives in her mission of brightening the lives of the children at Nemours.
“I have such a long list of family and friends that I want to thank for helping me all these years. I would never have been able to come this far without all their help. People have bought me fabric, thread, donated money and plastic bags. I am retired, so I am so grateful for all their help,” Casto said.
Casto retired from the front desk at Harmony High School in 2014 when she was 78.
“Sometimes I find a box of fabric on my porch, or I will be at the store and one of my friends put money in my pocket to buy whatever is needed,” said Casto. “Every time I am almost out of material it appears from somewhere. So, I guess God doesn’t want me to quit doing what I am doing for all those children.”