Fashion studies students at Lakeland Ridge School have a lot of heart when it comes to helping families with newborns in hospital.

The junior high students have been sewing fabric hearts to give to the Misericordia Community Hospital for its neonatal intensive-care unit.

Once the hospital receives the fabric hearts, two are given to each family with an infant in the NICU, said Caroline McKay, fashion studies teacher at the Sherwood Park school.

The parent or caregiver wears one heart against their skin, and the other heart is wrapped in with the baby. After a few days, the hearts are exchanged.

The mother’s scent on the fabric gives the baby a sense of closeness and comfort when the parent is unable to be in direct contact, McKay said.

The scent of the baby helps stimulate milk in the mother, who is storing a supply for a hospitalized infant.

‘I feel a connection’

“When they’re sewing for themselves, that’s one thing,” McKay said of her students. “When they’re using their talents and their skills to sew for other people, it creates more empathy.

“We all love babies and our heart breaks when we hear stories of babies that have to stay in the hospital and are apart from their families. When we realize that we can do something to even just help a little bit, it’s easy to make that connection and to want to give back.”

Students have embraced the program, which started at the school in September. Some of them have continued to make more fabric hearts at home, McKay said.

“I feel a connection to this project because I have a little cousin who was born premature,” Makenzie Osmond, a Grade 9 student at Lakeland Ridge, said in a news release. “My aunt and cousin each received a bonding heart and I saw how important it was to them.”

McKay said she plans to continue the program with a new batch of students next year.

“The students are really motivated and they want to do a really good job, knowing that it’s going to go to somebody else and help somebody’s family out,” she said.

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