Barham named Northern Nevada coordinator for Ryan’s Case for Smiles
Debbie Barham, co-owner of Carson City-based DeBug Computer, Inc., has been named Northern Nevada coordinator for Ryan’s Case for Smiles, a non-profit with thousands of volunteers across the globe providing comfort to children with cancer.
Ryan’s Case for Smiles was founded in 2007 to create and distribute whimsical pillowcases to young patients and their families to help ease the fear associated with hospital stays.
Barham is a founding member of the Northern Nevada chapter since 2011. After reading an article in Women’s Day magazine, Barham and two other women, Mary Herrall and Lavonne Johnson, came together to form the chapter and begin sewing pillowcases they delivered to children in local hospitals.
“In the beginning the three of us made all the pillowcases,” Barham said. “Over time we have reached out to local quilt stores, women’s groups and churches, as well as the Kohl’s Cares program. They have all helped us make pillowcases and earn money to help pay for all the fabric.”
Prior to the pandemic, Barham said groups of women would get together once a month to make pillowcases. Now, smaller groups gather to sew, iron, wash, label and stuff pillowcases.
“Our normal distribution, before COVID-19, was 300 pillowcases a month,” she said. “We could not do this without all of our volunteers. We’re always looking for more to help, and you don’t have to be able to sew to contribute.”
Barham said her three granddaughters and her children have stepped up to help.
“I have three beautiful children and three healthy granddaughters, which has always been a blessing to me,” she said. “Some of these sick children we deliver to spend so much time in the hospital that it can’t help but make you want to help those who need comfort we can provide.”
The Ryan’s Case for Smiles program has expanded to include the child’s entire family. The organization cites research showing that 20% of children hospitalized with cancer, and 30% of their mothers suffer symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, rates comparable with those experienced by U.S. veterans serving since the Vietnam War. Experiences that reduce stress can minimize that trauma. To date, Ryan’s Case for Smiles has delivered more than 2 million pillowcases to over 75,000 children and their families, as well as 30,700 masks for pediatric nurses to use while visiting medically complex children, many of whom are ventilator dependent, through some 40 million volunteer hours.
“We have also been involved when there are fires or disasters in other states and have sent pillowcases to them,” Barham said. “We sent pillowcases to children after the Sandy Hook shooting, we sent them to Chico after so many were affected by the fires. It seems like such a small thing but with our team we get the job done and make someone smile.”
For information about Ryan’s Case for Smiles, visit http://www.caseforsmiles.org. For information on how to get involved locally, contact Debbie Barham at (775) 315-4635.