With more than 180,000 quilts awarded to date—and counting—the Quilts of Valor® Foundation is one of the most active and prominent quilt charities in the United States. According to its founder Catherine Roberts, the concept of quilts as a way to comfort soldiers started with a dream she had in 2003, at a time when her son Nat was deployed in Iraq.
She dreamt of a young man, post-deployment, sitting on the edge of his bed in the middle of the night, struggling with his war demons. In the next instant, she saw him wrapped in a quilt, his demeanor hopeful.
To her, this meant one simple thing: Quilts = Healing.
By the end of the year, Catherine had awarded a first quilt (not yet known as a Quilt of Valor®) to a young wounded soldier in Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Before long, Quilts of Valor® was established as an organization.
The use of the word “awarded” is intentional; a Quilt of Valor® (QOV) is intended both to honor a veteran for his or her service, sacrifice and valor in a ceremony and to impress upon them that they are not alone.
Early on, Catherine established high standards for how a Quilt of Valor® should be made. A QOV must be no smaller than 55″ x 65″, and ideally 60″ x 80″ to comfortably cover an average-sized adult. Materials used should only be high-quality quilting fabric and batting, and quilts must be finished with hand or machine quilting—no tied quilts accepted—and labeled.
Over the past 15 years, thousands of quilters have happily adhered to these standards and volunteered their time, talent and treasure to make quilts for military service members and veterans of all ages, ranks and branches. One of those quilters is Marianne Fons, who is an emeritus board member. Her involvement with QOVF goes beyond the simple fact that the organization is now headquartered in her hometown of Winterset, Iowa. She knows that many people start quilting because they want to make a specific quilt for someone special, and she has made it her mission to encourage experienced quilters “to take non-quilters under their wings to help them make a Quilt of Valor®.” She has awarded numerous Quilts of Valor®. “They’ve become my favorite quilts to make,” she says, “because they fulfill what to me is the perfect destiny for a quilt—to comfort another person with love, warmth and beauty.”
Vietnam veteran and former QOVF board member Mike Sloan spoke movingly in a video about working with QOVF and the impact receiving a quilt can have. “When you can hand a young Marine or a young sailor or a young soldier something that’s been handmade by people and presented to them specifically for what they’ve done, very often they cry,” he said. “They’re overcome; they’re embarrassed. They won’t stand up and ask for it. They’ll try to hand it to their friends because they’re embarrassed to take it. And then later if you get the chance and you visit them in their barracks, it’s on their bunks. Their wives say it’s the most important thing on the couch.”
For details on how you can make a Quilt of Valor®, click on the “Quilters’ Questions” tab at www.QOVF.org. Locate local QOVF groups and certified quilt shops in your area by clicking on the “Who’s In My Area” button.