Nov. 10, 2005
By Erin Roberts
Students in Kjersten Moratzka's Fundamentals of Stagecraft class have been busy making hats. A lot of hats. Not for an upcoming performance, but for cancer patients in six southeastern Ohio counties.
Nearly 60 students made more than 60 fleece hats in three days from a pattern drafted by Moratzka. This is the third year in a row Ohio University students have made hats for the American Cancer Society.
Sophomore Audrey Kisilewicz, who is studying theater, really enjoyed the project because of its tie to the American Cancer Society.
"It was fun making the hats," she says. "I did try a little harder because I knew someone would actually be wearing it, and someone would really appreciate it, even if it wasn't that perfect."
Colleen Krubl, an American Cancer Society patient navigator based in the O'Bleness Hospital Castrop Center in Athens, will distribute the hats. Krubl works with cancer patients in Athens, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble and Washington counties.
"It's the little things that can really have an impact on a patient," Krubl says. "Of course, they value the big things, but they remember the little things too. I've already distributed a couple of the hats. One woman was just so tickled. She looked through the basket and picked out a couple. She was just really tickled."
The hats were sewn as part of a required introductory course for theater majors, which acquaints students with the three major shops within the School of Theater: the scenery and prop shop, the lighting shop and the costume shop, where the hats were made.
Moratzka, who taught at Louisiana State University before coming to Ohio University in 2003, established a relationship with the American Cancer Society's national "Look Good, Feel Better" program while in Baton Rouge. The program assists cancer patients with choosing wigs, learning to apply make-up and creating turbans.
"I thought, there's got to be something organizations need," Moratzka says. "So that's how the tie to 'Look Good, Feel Better' was established."
An added benefit to students is that they get a taste of community service.
"The whole assignment is introduced on the first day of class," she says. "The response is usually 'Oooh!' It's the only truly practical application of the quarter."
Sharon Romina, the Ohio University/American Cancer Society partnership coordinator in the College of Communications, says she’s happy to welcome another college into the partnership, having already involved both the Colleges of Health and Human Services and Osteopathic Medicine in the initiative.
"The students' final product is going to benefit and mean something very special to cancer survivors," she says of the fleece hats. "Dealing with hair loss is a major issue for women suffering from cancer, and these hats will give those survivors a measure of comfort and care."
For Moratzka, the project has kept her students engaged and enabled her to teach them to sew. And she wants to take the project even further. Moratzka is designing a turban pattern for cancer patients to wear during the spring and summer months.
"I think there's a different attitude toward the whole project," she says. "Knowing that it's a service project puts some meaning behind it. It also helps that it's not some obscure charity. Everyone knows the American Cancer Society."
Erin Roberts is the external relations coordinator for the College of Communication.