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Nearly 31,000 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. For some of them, just getting dressed can be painful or impossible. To give those men and women something to wear other than hospital gowns, a volunteer group in southwest Ohio is making clothing adapted to their needs.
From member station WMUB in Oxford Ohio, Gary Scott has this report.
GARY SCOTT: In the back hall of Amvets Post 148 in Medway, Ohio, on a recent Sunday afternoon, volunteers for Sew Much Comfort gather around long folding tables. The bar in the back is closed. The small bandstand in the corner sits empty. And the mirrored ball above the dance floor hangs idle. But today, the sewing machines are humming.
SCOTT: Mother and daughter sewing duo Patty Kimmy(ph) and Tayana Perkins(ph) have been volunteering to do this every month for the past two years. Patty figures they've sewn more than 700 small pillows.
Ms. PATTY KIMMY: And they use it for their backs in the wheelchair. They've used it for their arms to put under for support. I've heard stories where they just hold it because it's something from home.
SCOTT: Tayana Perkins says her mom is teaching her to sew.
Ms. TAYANA PERKINS: I'm not that great, but I can do the basic stitch here for the pillows and stuff like that.
SCOTT: So what does it mean to you to know that what you're working on here may very well provide some real comfort an injured soldier?
Ms. PERKINS: It's going to make me cry. It does (unintelligible) and good to know I'm helping a soldier. I can't go over there, so this is what I do.
SCOTT: At Sew Much Comfort's distribution center in Beaver Creek, Ohio, facility director Theresa Wheeler tapes up a shirt kit for a seamstress in Montana. She gets the orders for military patients through the organization's Web site. Then, Wheeler and other volunteers pack the raw materials and send them off to be sewn.
This box will return days later with six shirts that have been cut and adapted with Velcro, so an injured soldier can easily put them on. Wheeler points to a picture of one of the wounded.
Ms. THERESA WHEELER (Facility Director, Sew Much Comfort Distribution Center): Jerry(ph) was hit by an IED in Iraq. And you can see from the extent of his injuries that he was unable to put on any kind of clothing because the burns and stuff would limit his range of motion.
We found out that he was a Dolphins fan, and Miami Dolphins gave us to sets of clothes, one for him to wear in the hospital that we adapted, and one that we did not adapt so that he could wear he got better.
SCOTT: Ginger Dosedel is an Air Force wife and founder of Sew Much Comfort. She started making adaptive clothing over two years ago after a conversation with her young son, who because of a rare form of childhood cancer, has to wear large metal braces on his legs.
Ms. GINGER DOSEDEL (Founder, Sew Much Comfort): Normal clothes don't fit over that, so I learned how to sew - not very well, but I learned how to sew.
SCOTT: After a visit to Walter Reid Hospital, her son suggested that she make similar clothes for wounded soldiers. Last year, 1,000 Sew Much Comfort volunteers from all over the country adapted and distributed 30,000 shirts, caps, crutch bags and the like to injured soldiers.
Dosedel is convinced that her volunteer base will continue to grow.
Ms. DOSEDEL: The sewing circles are amazingly close that you - people - Americana is great, grassroots Americana. This is proof that it works because they do spread the word.
SCOTT: Ginger Dosedel says so much comfort gets very little corporate support. Its rent, shipping costs and supplies are mostly covered by private donations. The group also distributes adaptive clothing to injured Iraqi children through a program called Children in the Crossfire.
For NPR News, I'm Gary Scott in Oxford, Ohio.
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