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1/14/2009 —

Penn State Brandywine student Emily Robb has gathered volunteers to help cut and sew huggy pillows for the cardiac recovery unit at Chester County Hospital in salute of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Monday, Jan. 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will take place in the Commons Building, Room 203.

These fleece-filled, heart-shaped pillows are provided by the hospital to patients recovering from open heart surgery. It is crucial post-surgery for these patients to keep their lungs clear of fluid as well as relieve the pressure on the sternum, ribs, and chest muscles. Patients hug the pillows to support the chest area while coughing, sneezing, or laughing. They can also be used under a seatbelt for protection while driving.

“The pillows also provide an emotional attachment or mood lifter for the patients,” Robb said. “We use happy fabric such as Penn State logos or footballs and we write personal notes on the back.”

She said the hospital can go through as many as 30 pillows in one month but since they are not typically covered by insurance and the non-profit hospital is unable to cover the cost itself, it “relies solely on the generosity of others”  to get the pillows. Robb’s goal for the project is to make 70 pillows in one day but she doesn’t plan on stopping there.

She has created pamphlets for the hospital explaining how others can volunteer and is working on a Web page for the hospital’s Web site because after conducting a Google search she was unable to find any information on huggy pillows.

Robb is also encouraging area middle school and high school teachers to persuade their students to make pillows annually. “This is such an important thing to do and I want to make sure people keep making these pillows even after I graduate,” she said.

As a senior honors student, Robb was required to complete a final project in order to graduate next fall, a project she says all other students focus around their majors. Robb, a business major, decided to step outside her comfort zone and focus her project on community service.

“I’ve been blessed with my education and wanted to give back. This just seemed right,” she said.

Not only is Robb the first student in the honors program to focus on a project unrelated to her major, she is also the youngest person to register an event through the MLK Day of Service Web site.

To date, nearly two dozen community members have signed up to participate.

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