Crafting club boosts spirits of young patients

As a fourth-year Medical Sciences student, Jonathan Besney never expected to spend his days making crafts. And he certainly didn’t expect to have much company doing it.

Besney is president of Western’s Crafting for a Cure, one of the newest – and largest – student clubs on campus. He was shocked by the early interest from the students.

“We were anticipating 50-75 members at the start,” he said. “We currently have 365.”

Western’s club, the first at a North American university, is part of the national Crafting for a Cure organization, a nonprofit registered charity that looks for opportunities to ensure children are having a positive experience when a hospital visit is necessary.

Started by Toronto resident Pamela Beilak just over three years ago, the organization already supplies craft kits, toys and ‘creative distractions’ to 41 hospitals in Canada, 26 in the United States and three in Israel. Beilak also happens to be the aunt of Besney’s roommate.

“I had done camp counseling stuff in the past, along with volunteering with children before,” he said. “So, when I heard about it, I thought this was great charity with a great mandate – bring a positive experience to children in hospitals.”

While the initial plan was to work with Children’s Hospital in London, the swell of volunteers necessitated some rapid expansion.

Western’s chapter is now involved with a dozen locations across the city including Merrymount, Salvation Army, Boys’ and Girls’ Club of London, Ontario Early Years Centre and, through the YMCA, six elementary schools.

“I knew there would be a great opportunity here for success – with it being such a great charity, and having so many students here willing to volunteer,” Besney said.

Along with face-to-face volunteering opportunities, students also prepare ‘crafting kits,’ which are delivered to children who are in isolation and cannot participate when the students visit.

There are many limitations placed on a child when they are in a hospital environment, but creativity and imagination should not be one of them.

“When you’re at the hospital, and have the ability to interact with the children, they are so excited,” he said. “It is a great distraction from whatever reason they’re in the hospital. Seeing them run around and play is so much fun for them, and us.”

Beilak supplied Western’s chapter with craft supplies to get the club going, but the local club has been holding fundraisers since to purchase more. The next fundraiser is set for tomorrow (Friday) at The Ceeps, with the sale of $5 wristbands.

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For more information on joining, or making a donation, to Western’s Crafting for a Cure, visit