Young patients slipped bit of cheer with handmade pillowcases


“She is a wonderful child care provider, loving wife, mother and grandmother — an amazing lady — plus her quilts are wonderful,” said John Eaton who called to commend friend Sylvia Hernandez Demaris as prime column material.

With such a glowing recommendation, I couldn’t pass up finding out more about the Dayton woman, who in addition to caring for little ones and making quilts, devotes hours sewing cheery pillowcases to donate to children being treated by hospitals in the region.

“My daycare children have been receiving pillowcases for years and have really enjoyed them. I felt they would make other children just as happy to receive them, Sylvia said.

In fact she recently took 198 fresh-off-the-sewing-machine Sylvia-made pillowcases to a hospital in Spokane to give to young patients.

“Once you go in and see all those children, you’re never the same to know we’re alive and healthy and they’re so sick,” she said.

“I have always had a great love for children and my heart breaks when I hear or see them so ill and there is not a single thing I can do to make it better. Giving has always been very important in my life. My parents were very generous people.”

Sylvia’s own journey with Shriners started with a school photograph of daughter Kendra Demaris, a kindergartner at the time. Looking at her child’s image, Sylvia noticed for the first time with concern that one shoulder was slightly higher than the other.

After a visit to the local doctor, she had Kendra further evaluated by Shriners doctors who recommended activities such as ballet and swimming to strengthen her back. The curve was so slight it wasn’t classified as scoliosis of the spine and treatment wasn’t called for, but doctors kept an eye on her with yearly checkups until she was 20.

Then about four years ago when her other daughter, Kassandra Demaris’s son Jayden Dedloff (with former husband Steven Dedloff) developed rare intractable epilepsy at 41/2, the family was drawn back into a medical labyrinth. Since his diagnosis, Jayden, who will be 8 on Wednesday, has been in the hospital many times, Sylvia said.

“That’s when I saw what giving to these hospitals is about, what it means to give to an organization. The (patients) had pillowcases, crayons and quilts,” she said.

So Sylvia, who’s just mad about fabric, jumped in sewing machine needle first. She makes her pillowcases from scratch. Each one takes a yard of material that she prewashes, irons, cuts into a standard size and sews. They’re bright, sometimes in solid hues and often in kid-friendly prints such as super heroes, flowers, ballet dancers and cars and some that depict children from around the world. She has also donated hundreds of Beanie Babies.

Such gifts are more personal, she said. “It brightens their time in the hospital and they get to take them home.” She has also donated her gifts, sewn with love, to hospitals in Seattle.

Jayden, whose condition is under control right now, lives with his mom and 5-year-old sister Madison Dedloff, in Pullman. Their dad lives in Dayton.

“I’m a big, big quilter,” Sylvia said. An early influence was avid quilt maker Sharon Welch, who returned to Dayton. Sylvia started quilting in 1994. “That was the beginning of an addiction. When my girls participated in 4-H my husband (of 35 years Frank Demaris) bought me my first Kenmore and we sewed endless hours on that machine. I learned many things from them and their 4-H leaders.”

Although she’s not counted the number of quilts she’s made, Sylvia said there is easily a large time investment in each one as she selects the fabrics, cuts and pieces it together, has it quilted and then binds it, — her least favorite step in the process. She did estimate from eight to 80 hours or more per project.

“Since I don’t have time to sit down during the day, it’s hard to find time while operating my day care. I have made and gifted many quilts and quilting projects — too many to count.

She quilts for enjoyment not for business, but has sold them and worked on commission. “They are very expensive to produce. Hence pillowcases became my passion.”

She also makes receiving blankets, books, kitchen towels, place mats, Christmas stockings and table runners. She transplanted to Dayton from Eagle Pass, Texas, with migrant parents Gloria Jimenez Hernandez of Eagle Pass and the late Alfonso Hernandez, and attended kindergarten in Dayton.

She has provided child care for 28 years now, starting when her daughters were small. It’s an occupation she loves.

After Kendra and Kassandra got into kindergarten, she continued caring for other people’s children and when her girls graduated from high school she couldn’t stop. When not with her grandchildren, or sewing or running her day care, Sylvia pursues such interests as cooking, baking, traveling and photography.

Exchange Club of Walla Walla honored seniors Samantha Moss and Seth Deal from Waitsburg High School and Ali Zander and Reilly Roach from DeSales High School with Youth of the Month awards.

All four are now eligible to compete for the club’s Youth of the Year Award this spring and a special $1,000 college scholarship.

They each submitted an essay addressing the 2012-2013 Youth of the Year theme, “Youth Volunteerism: Working Magic in Our Communities,” said Mark Higgins, coordinator for this program.

The daughter of Becky Sailer, Samantha holds a 3.965 gpa and has been on the honor roll for four years. She’s Senior Class vice president and National Honor Society president. A scholar-athlete cheerleader, she volunteers for NHS’s Highway Clean-Up project and blood drive and each month visits with residents at Booker Rest Home. She plans to study engineering at Washington State University.

Seth holds a 3.94 GPA and is the son of Bob and Veronica Deal. He’s a member of NHS and is ASB vice president. He has won many class awards for mathematics, English, science, history and accounting; is FFA president, continuing in the post from last school year. He was a state participant in cross country from 2009-12. He is also on the school’s basketball and track & field teams. He offered free baseball lessons to members of a 2012 Little League baseball team, volunteers at Booker Rest Home and participates in Relay for Life. He plans to study business in college this fall and wants to run cross country and track and field.

Ali and Reilly tied for the No. 1 4.0 GPA spot at DeSales. Both have attended Walla Walla Catholic Schools since pre-school.

The daughter of Kevin and Julie Zander, Ali is an NHS member, is on the school’s Math Team, is a four-year Knowledge Bowl team member and ASB secretary. She is active in and president of Girls League Service Club and plays soccer, basketball and softball. She also volunteer coaches a YMCA youth boys basketball team. She is applying to a number of colleges including Gonzaga University, WSU, University of Portland, Duke and Willamette universities.

The son of Jacquie and Dan Roach, Reilly is a four-year participant in and two-year team captain for Knowledge Bowl. He is a member of Math Team and NHS and ASB vice president. He has played football, baseball and basketball for four years and earned his Eagle Scout rank with Boy Scouts of America. He’s applying to Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Seattle University, Yale, Marquette, Villanova and New York University, among others.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or afternoons at 526-8313.


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