When 12-year-old Aviya Stein was tasked with creating a meaningful Bat Mitzvah project, she decided to help kids with heart complications — a cause near and dear to her own heart.
Aviya's idea to sew quilts for children with heart defects was inspired by the keepsake quilt her brother Asher received during his stay at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for a congenital heart defect he was born with.
So far, she has sewn nine quilts, but she hopes to create 18 — a number that means "life" in Hebrew.
Her project, called Aviya's Quilts for Kids, also aims to raise $1,800 for the hospital's Herma Heart Center, and she is already about halfway to her goal. The effort has taken off through a Facebook group and by spreading the word around school and with her friends. Some of her classmates have even donated their allowance money to the cause, and others are making their own quilts to donate.
Aviya said she hopes the quilts will bring a smile to the faces of the infants and young children at the heart center when she finishes her project before her Bat Mitzah at Congregation Beth Israel, 6880 North Green Bay Ave., Glendale, in September.
"I hope they feel all the effort and the love I put into it," she said. "I hope it makes them feel special."
Even though she was too young to remember her brother's stay in the hospital as an infant, Asher's heart condition has always been a part of the family's life. They participate in the Briggs and Al's Run and Walk fundraiser every year, with their own team for Asher.
After the two surgeries as an infant, Asher, now 9 years old, will return for hopefully one last surgery next week.
"This could be a lifetime fix," said their mother, Yael Stein. "We're hopeful that this will be it."
Asher said he appreciates his sister dedicating so much time to a cause that he has a connection with.
"It makes me feel like she cares about me, and that she loves me as a brother," he said.
For Aviya, the project is a great way to help others while using her creativity as she experiments with different patterns and colors. She said she spends about four hours per quilt.
Her biggest project in the works is the quilt she is making for Asher, whose quilt will be almost as big as the kitchen table.
Even though Aviya's quilts won't have a special healing power, the cloth becomes a kind of comfort keepsake for not only the children, but the parents who are grappling with the health issues of their child.
"When you have a baby that's in the hospital, it's something to bring a little happiness that they can take home with them and keep and have a good memory instead of a memory of their child being sick," Yael Stein said.
For more information about Aviya's Quilts for Kids, visit Aviya's fundraising page.