A 7-year-old Kenosha girl is putting her love of sewing toward a good cause by making canvas tote bags and selling them to benefit the American Cancer Society.
Tess Callahan, who attends Southport Elementary School, wanted to do something nice for her great aunt Rose Tredup, who had received treatment for breast cancer, by helping her raise funds for the Cancer Society. But two weeks ago Rose died.
Tess and her grandmother Sue Nighbor expect to collect more than $800 with all of the proceeds to be donated to the Cancer Society’s 25th Anniversary Walk/Run taking place on April 27 at the Kenosha Public Museum grounds. Tess and her family will participate in the walk also in memory of her grandfather Patrick Callahan, who died of brain cancer before she was born.
So far Tess has completed 30 bags, large and small, which have sold for $20 and $15, respectively. But Tess is also working on 22 others to fulfill customer requests. It takes two days to complete three to four bags, she said.
In December, Tess asked Nighbor to teach her to sew using her grandmother’s pedal-operated sewing machine. Her first project was a small tote bag, she said. She then sewed a bag for Rose in the special breast cancer awareness fabric in pink and black and with its well-recognized pink ribbon pattern. She said her great aunt used it when she would go to St. Catherine’s Medical Center for chemotherapy treatment.
“She’d put clothes and her food in it,” she said. “She said they were good, and she had picked out the (cancer awareness fabric).”
Before long, people took notice of the bag, and Tess and her grandmother were hard at work clipping coupons to buy more of the fabric to make them. Rose would display them in her hospital room, Tess said. The bags that are for sale are made of sturdy fabrics, such as canvas and denim, with some that are trimmed with cancer awareness fabric. Each is a one-of-a- kind creation.
Rose loved that her great-niece had taken up sewing to make the bags and they were also displayed at her funeral, according to Sue Callahan, Tess’ mother. Rose had given her great-niece the blessing to continue making the bags so they could raise funds on her behalf even after she had died.
“We like this walk because (the money) goes to Wisconsin,” said Nighbor.
Some bags may be available at next week’s event with more on the way to be sold later at the Relay for Life to be held at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on Aug. 2.