A craft for a smile: Whitman club creates crafts for children battling cancer


Crafts for Smiles club members gather in the art room to make various crafts for hospitalized children. Photo courtesy Cansu Nur Erkan.

By Heather Wang

Glue bottles, beads and shreds of fabric are scattered across the art room tables. Crafts for Smiles club members make themselves busy by weaving bits of yarn into necklaces and bracelets, with their hands covered in dried glue and markers. Talking and laughing together, Crafts for Smiles members create various art projects for hospitalized children battling cancer and other chronic illnesses. Last summer, they volunteered at Anna’s Gift Foundation, which aims to bring comfort to kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families. They’ve made crafts for Sibley Memorial Hospital and Children’s National Main Hospital and attended the Hope Festival, an event that encourages teens to spend time with children in foster care.

Club President Cansu Erkan created the club last year after seeing a television ad for a childhood cancer clinic and brainstorming ways to contribute.

The club meets once a week to make crafts like small toys, necklaces and finger puppets. Ten to fifteen people come to each meeting, and usually each member makes one necklace and one hat.

Erkan then drops the crafts off at local hospitals, including Sibley Memorial Hospital, Children’s National Hospital and the National Institute of Health Children’s Inn. She hopes that their creations will make the children happy, she said.

Erkan communicates with Sibley’s hospital manager and head nurse to deliver the crafts to pediatric patients.

When Erkan traveled to Turkey in the summer of 2018 with her family, she brought her club’s crafts along for the ride and paid a visit to Ümraniye Education and Research Hospital.

“The day I visited the Turkish hospital was both my happiest and saddest day,” Erkan said. “I was able to see the kids smile when they got the crafts; at the same time, I was sad to see the patients — kids my age — diagnosed with all types of illnesses, while I’m healthy.”

Vice President Lily Yin joined the club because she wanted to use her artistic passion to help others get through tough times. 

“When I see that I can make the children happy, the process becomes very meaningful,” Yin said. “I know that I am bettering my community.”

Through Crafts for Smiles, members feel inspired to make a difference and improve the lives of others. Senior Azan Ali believes that the club has helped him grow as a person and appreciate everything he has.

“I’ve learned to appreciate how small things can make a world of difference to a child,” he said. “Sometimes, small things are the ones that amount to happiness in life.”