Winfield Hustlers sew blankets for young heart surgery patients

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:10 am on Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Winfield Hustlers include, front row, from left, Abigail Rushmore and Kelly Olger; back row from left, Jessica Black, Hailey Olger, Joy Johnson, Serena Johnson, Lindsey Olger, Kristina Brasington, Dominic Black, Nathan Rousseau, Tyler Keilholtz and Aaron Johnson. — Courtesy photo

WINFIELD TOWNSHIP — Hailey Olger wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

The aspirations of this 12-year-old are due in part to watching her little sister Kelly struggle with heart defects. Kelly is 5 years old and has already had three open heart surgeries.

“Last year, when she had her second open heart surgery, we went and visited her,” Hailey recalled. “She had tubes in her stomach. I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like seeing her in the bed.”

The Olger sisters include, from left, Kelly, Lindsey and Hailey. — Courtesy photo

When Kelly was just 6 months old, doctors repaired a hole in her heart, repaired a coarctation of the aorta and dilated her mitral valve. Last year, the valve was repaired again, but it didn’t take. Kelly went back to the hospital and had a mechanical valve inserted.

“Every time she was there, she got a new fleece tied blanket,” Hailey remembered.

Hailey, a seventh-grader at Central Montcalm Middle School, has been a member of the Winfield Hustlers 4-H Club since she was 6 years old. She was inspired to create something positive out of her sister’s struggles.

Hailey applied for and received a $500 service learning project mini-grant from the Montcalm County 4-H Council. As a result, Dr. Michelle Gibson, a faculty member at Montcalm Community College and a former 4-Her herself, was a guest speaker at a Winfield Hustlers meeting. Gibson spoke about the functions of the heart, as well as congenital heart disease.

After hearing Gibson speak, the Winfield Hustlers spent last Sunday afternoon creating about two dozen fleece tied blankets at Winfield Township Hall. The blankets will be donated to heart surgery patients at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, where Kelly spent 20 days last year.

“It was really, really fun,” said Hailey of the sewing project. “We got them done in probably like three hours. You have to line up the two pieces of fabric and then you have to cut them to make them even and then you have to cut the corners and tie them. It was a lot of work, but it was really fun. The older kids in the group made it even more fun.”

Kelly is doing well today. This is her first year as a Cloverbud in 4-H.

“You would never know that she has a mechanical valve in her heart,” Hailey said. “She is, like, so energetic.”

Hailey and Kelly are the daughters of Kristen Diehl, who is a leader with the Winfield Hustlers, and Mark Olger.

“I am very proud of Hailey’s desire to help others,” Diehl said. “4-H has provided her with opportunities to serve the community. The children really find the blankets comforting and so do the parents. Hailey has a big heart and is always willing to help those in need.”

Hailey said she is proud to be a member of the Winfield Hustlers, which has been active for 60 years now, according to leader Lisa Johnson. And Hailey will likely continue to make her fellow 4-Hers proud in the future.

“I want to be a doctor,” she said. “I just want to be like a research doctor and I want to help find cures for diseases. I want people to come in and see me and I’ll do tests and find cures for them.”

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