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Paying it Foward: Shelburne County volunteers and students honour girl's memory through donations of finger puppets to hospitals

Volunteer Cheryll Blinkhorn gives Grade 6 Hillcrest Academy student Rylie Jamieson a helping hand knitting a finger puppet for the IWK. In the background classmates Emma Harris and Shahed Hendawi work on their puppets. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Volunteer Cheryll Blinkhorn gives Grade 6 Hillcrest Academy student Rylie Jamieson a helping hand knitting a finger puppet for the IWK. In the background classmates Emma Harris and Shahed Hendawi work on their puppets. - Kathy Johnson

SHELBURNE COUNTY – Knitting finger puppets for hospitalized children has become a family tradition in the Shelburne area that spans three generations. But it has also become a paying-it-forward gesture in memory of Carmen Faith Huskilson that has spread throughout the community.

“We’ve been doing it 20-plus years,” says Nancy Thomas, one of at least 10 volunteers who regularly craft the tiny puppets that are given to children to help soothe the experience of being sick in the hospital.

“There’s at least 10 of us that I know of knitting them,” says Thomas. “Everyone does it on their own and then gives them to me. I finish them up and send them to the IWK. We also send them to Yarmouth, Bridgewater and Roseway hospitals.”

Hillcrest Academy Grade 6 students Jeremy Quinlan (left) and Noah Crowell try their hand at knitting finger puppets for the IWK under the direction of volunteer Nancy Thomas. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Hillcrest Academy Grade 6 students Jeremy Quinlan (left) and Noah Crowell try their hand at knitting finger puppets for the IWK under the direction of volunteer Nancy Thomas. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Mary Thomas, who helps her mom Nancy knit finger puppets, holds up a bag of 1,200 finger puppets that were recently donated to the IWK in memory of Carmen Faith Huskilson as part of the paying-it-forward movement in her memory. That many puppets will last the IWK about a month, says Nancy Thomas. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Mary Thomas, who helps her mom Nancy knit finger puppets, holds up a bag of 1,200 finger puppets that were recently donated to the IWK in memory of Carmen Faith Huskilson as part of the paying-it-forward movement in her memory. That many puppets will last the IWK about a month, says Nancy Thomas. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO

Thomas said her mother, the late Phyllis Seaboyer, started the practice about 20 years ago when Thomas’s nephew was in the IWK a lot.

“We wanted to help somehow, and mom found out they needed finger puppets,” she says.

Thomas and the others have carried on the tradition over the years and are now passing the skill of knitting and the desire to help others to a third generation.

“My 12-year-old daughter Mary has been helping to knit them for years,” Thomas says.

“It’s a year-round project,” she says. “We knit whenever we can. A lot of people donate yarn, that way we don’t have to go out and buy it, and then we’ve had some people donate money so we can buy yarn.”

Three years ago, after five-year-old Carmen Faith Huskilson passed away due to illness and the Pay it Forward movement in her memory was started, Thomas says, “We thought it would be nice to send the finger puppets in memory of her.”

In the last three years, the group has sent 26,500 puppets just to the IWK in Carmen’s memory.

About the same time, Hillcrest Academy Grade 6 teacher Jodi MacMaster came up with the idea of incorporating the making of finger puppets into the Grade 6 art and social studies curriculums as a way for the students to honour Carmen and do something that would be beneficial.

“The year Carmen died our class was book buddies with her class, so we visited her every week up to that point. We wanted to do something that would be helpful to the class, the IWK, and be done in her honour,” says MacMaster.

Thomas and other volunteers have been going into Hillcrest Academy ever since, teaching the students how to knit and make finger puppets.

“The kids enjoy it and are proud of their work,” MacMaster says, adding some students have gone home and continued to make the puppets on their own.

Grade 6 Hillcrest Academy students Mady Demings and Taylor Burton admire each other’s work while knitting finger puppets for the IWK. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Grade 6 Hillcrest Academy students Mady Demings and Taylor Burton admire each other’s work while knitting finger puppets for the IWK. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO



About Carmen

Carmen Faith Huskilson touched many lives in her short lifespan, and in her memory much love and generosity lives on through the paying-it-forward movement. PHOTO FROM PAYING IT FORWARD FACEBOOK GROUP
Carmen Faith Huskilson touched many lives in her short lifespan, and in her memory much love and generosity lives on through the paying-it-forward movement. PHOTO FROM PAYING IT FORWARD FACEBOOK GROUP

Carmen Faith Huskilson, the daughter of Andrew and Jennie Huskilson, passed away on Jan. 12, 2016, at the age of five after spending a considerable amount of her young life in and out of hospital.

In her obituary her parents wrote: “In keeping with Carmen’s outlook on life we believe this is a time to make our community stronger and better, so we ask you: please pay it forward in her name. We will be eternally grateful as she loved helping others.”

Since the little girl’s death, individuals, groups, families, businesses and organizations have been paying it forward in her memory with countless acts of kindness.

The amount of good done in memory of Carmen is endless and continues to go on and on.

You can read more about the pay-it-forward movement in memory of Carmen through the ‘Paying it forward in memory of Carmen Faith Huskilson’ Facebook group.


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Some past examples through the years about some of the Pay it Foward moments and initiatives: 

Shelburne daycare benefits from Pay it Forward generousity: It took a village of caring people filled with a Pay it Forward spirit to bring thousands of dollars worth of improvements to the daycare centre Carmen once attended. 

Brightening up Roseway for Children: Carmen was no stanger to the emergency room at Roseway Hospital. After her death staff round a way to honour her memory and help other children. 

Donation to medical centre in honour of Carmen's birthday: The Carmen Faith Memorial Fund made a generous donation towards the construction of a medical clinic. 

Love rebuilds a library in Clark's Harbour school: After a roof leak damaged the library at the elementary school in Clark's Harbour, leaving the library shelves empty, the Pay it Foward movement helped to support the cause, along with others, to get kids reading again. 

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