News Story

Latter-day Saint Women Clothe Preemies in Canada

Canadian members of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assembled and sewed hundreds of pajamas for premature infants struggling to survive at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario.

The Relief Society is the largest international women’s organization, with more than five million members worldwide.

“The preemie would have to be so small to fit into one of these outfits,” thought Rae Anne Goodman after reading about the need in an issue of Canadian Living magazine and seeing a photo of the type of pajamas needed.

Approximately half of the 800 babies admitted each year to the SickKids Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are preemies weighing less than four pounds. Most have been covered only in a blanket because of the lack of commercially produced clothing for infants this small. In desperation, some parents have dressed their preemies in Cabbage Patch doll clothing — not well suited to babies connected to medical equipment.

Goodman is the Relief Society president for seven congregations in the Toronto area. She contacted SickKids volunteer Linda Lo Re, organizer of the “PJs for Preemies” program. Soon, hundreds of Latter-day Saint women from Hamilton, Burlington, Stoney Creek, Welland, Simcoe, St. Catharines and St. Davids were mobilized to sew pajamas and blankets for these preemies.

Assisted by the SickKids Foundation and Paloma Foundation, “PJs for Preemies” supplied patterns and fabric to the Relief Society. Some of the Latter-day Saint women also donated fabric.

With a goal of producing 450 pajamas, Goodman and her Relief Society “sisters” began the work of assembling and sewing in the spring of 2006.

“It looked like the sewing bees of yesteryear,” said Gisella McAlpine, a local Relief Society member. “An expert sewer needed about 45 minutes to complete one outfit. But in some congregations, volunteers were organized into assembly lines to support the more skilled sewers. Some cut the material, some did the serging and some sewed on the Velcro.”

The women almost doubled their goal, producing 800 pajamas.

The Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes all adult women of the Church. More than half of the Relief Society's members live outside of the United States.

“Our faith is the unifying force that cuts across race, age, political views, socioeconomic status, marital status and educational level — all the things that can often separate people,” says Abbie Vianes, a Relief Society member from Virginia and a convert to the Church.

“The feeling of a worldwide sisterhood is real for us,” she says. “I have traveled extensively, and it is apparent.”

The society was originally organized to offer relief to its members — and to neighbors — from the physical and emotional challenges of the world.

The organization's motto of “Charity Never Faileth” points to how needs are met. Members exercise charity and nurture those in need through providing such things as meals, clothing, hygiene kits and quilts, and through the society’s literacy program.

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