Di Edwards sits to sew in a room packed with piles of fabrics and crates loaded with ribbons, buttons, zippers and yarn. It is her craft room in Pampoolah and ground zero for “All 4 Kids’”- her initiative to provide handcrafted items to assist kids of all ages, from newborn to the elderly.
What is “All 4 Kids”, and who does it help?
I created All 4 Kids a few years ago, and it is a small group of women who handcraft items to assist kids of all ages, from newborn to the elderly. We make items that are useful, particularly for children who are sick, hospitalised, institutionalised or affected by a traumatic event. We also help with projects for adults, elderly-in-care, the homeless and women and children fleeing domestic violence.
If we can help by making one item for an individual, or a few items for a project that is close to our hearts, then we believe we have done something positive.
What life experiences and events shaped your decision to create All 4 Kids in 2015?
Cancer has been so prevalent in my family. I’ve had it, my husband’s had it, my sister was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer last year, and we lost our mum to stomach cancer – it’s devastating stuff, and things are just never the same after cancer.
In January 1975, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and told I could only have two children in two years, and then everything had to be gone. I had my first pap smear, and it was positive! It was such a shock, and it was all downhill from there.
I fell pregnant, but couldn’t carry Matthew once he started to put weight on, and I was almost seven months pregnant when I lost him. These days they can save premature babies, but not in the ‘70s – so that broke me; it really broke me.
We were very lucky to be able to have two more children, Ben and Peter, but my little boy, Matthew, is at Dawson River Cemetery, and all I’ve got is just a little grave to visit. I couldn’t do anything for him, so that’s why I do what I do now.
What is your family connection to Manning Hospital, and how
My husband and I worked at the hospital, my mum used to work on the catering staff, and I had all my children at the hospital, so it is very close to my heart. My niece also worked at the hospital, so I got her to ask the children’s ward if it needed anything – and that’s when “Snuggles” was born. He’s just the most beautiful, snuggly, cuddly little fella. Every little sick kid needs a teddy – he’s not your standard teddy; he’s a funny little flat bear because he’s not fully plump. You can cuddle and cry on Snuggles, toss him around, squash him and throw him in the wash, so he’s all nice and fresh for more cuddles.
I make Snuggles for the kids who have to stay for a little while, and I leave it up to the staff to hand him out at their discretion. I make him in sets of 11 because there are 11 beds, and when I can, I also make blankets for the beds. It helps to make it feel more comforting because hospitals are horrible places – particularly for children. Snuggles is so simple, but brings so much comfort – and I’ve made hundreds.
Snuggles is now only one of many products produced by All 4 Kids. How has the group expanded its support of other organisations in recent years?
We are not trying to reinvent the wheel and send stuff all over Australia or overseas. We try to find places immediate to us that we can help. We just do “home”, where the need is, and there is plenty of need here – more than you would imagine.
We sew, knit, crochet and create so many different items to support so many different needs. Toiletry bags, crochet washers, beanies, scarves, heat packs, art folios, pencil cases, book bags, aprons, lap blankets, sensory items such as tactile mats, mitts and mazes, baby packs of handcrafted bibs, blankets and burping cloths and a small bear called “Ollie”, cuddle hearts and trauma dolls.
I don’t make things that are not useful. You can make all the fripperies and stuff, but if people in need can’t use it, then it’s pointless. If I make one, I might as well make 10, and I make in the multitudes because I am here and this is what I do. It’s important to show people that someone cares because sadly, so many people don’t have people who care about them.
How have you used your professional skills to create products that aid some of our most vulnerable community members?
I nursed and also worked as a diversional therapist for dementia, Alzheimer’s and aged care patients for almost 30 years. You put your heart and soul into it, and I had some incredible experiences.
It’s such an interesting field, but it just breaks your heart. The disease can impact anyone. We had the most beautiful artist as one of our residents; her family brought her art to show us, and she didn’t even recognise it as hers.
All 4 Kids makes marble mazes and sensory mats for people with dementia and in aged care. Around 3 pm or 4 pm, they can become very restless, and a lot of people just need to pull at something or to touch something to calm down. If you give them something to pull at that won’t hurt them, something as simple as a marble in a bag, or a sensory mat, then they can get out their aggression and stress. It’s an insidious disease that strips people of their identity, dignity and everything else. So, anything that helps them and the people who care for them is wonderful.
Where does All 4 Kids get the materials you need to make the items?
A great deal of the fabric comes from doonas found at op shops – you can get four metres of fabric from a doona! We also receive donations of upholstery fabric samples, curtain offcuts and buy new fabric from Spotlight when it’s on sale.
When we were kids, Mum made everything, because there was no money to buy things, so you made do with what you had – and you re-used as much as you could. Nothing went to waste, and it’s the same with All 4 Kids.
We appreciate any and all help provided and invite people to donate Spotlight gift cards, polar fleece fabric, flannelette, cotton and children’s seasonal patterned fabrics, threads, wool, crochet
To contact All 4 Kids and Di Edwards, call 0419 172 436.