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Western Maryland Hospital resident makes yarn figures

July 25, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- With a few skeins of donated yarn, a couple of crude wooden patterns and a lot of determination, Virginia Dennison creates soft, cuddly animals for children - many she will never see.

Virginia is 80 years old, legally blind and wheelchair-bound. For the past three years, the resident of the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue has been participating in an ambitious occupational therapy activity.

The brainchild of occupational therapist Cheryl Deal, making the yarn animals is a way for residents with physical limitations to do something that not only improves their dexterity, but makes it fun at the same time.

"I asked Virginia if she wanted to make bears for children in the community," Deal said. An artist all her life, Virginia rose to the challenge despite her failing vision.

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Five days a week, Virginia and others work on the current project of teddy bears, each of which is about 12 inches tall and quite chubby and plush.

"On weekends, we give Virginia homework so she can work on the bears in her room," Deal said.

More than 30 have been completed.

Virginia said she sometimes has trouble sleeping, so she gets up at 3 or 4 a.m. and works on bears.

"I do the designs - the arms, legs, body and head are done separately and then Cheryl puts them together," Virginia said. "She is my eyesight."

Earlier this week, eight of the bears were taken to CASA for youngsters associated with that agency that shelters battered women and their children.

"I've also made them for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as for some friends," Virginia said.

Each bear has a name, a birth certificate and a birthday, occupational therapist Katie Walsh said.

While bears are the current fashion, Virginia has made everything from flamingos to kangaroos to giraffes. She once made a yellow yarn Volkswagen and an Uncle Sam with an eagle.

When she isn't making yarn animals, Virginia often can be found weeding the hospital garden and attending Red Hat Society functions at the hospital.

"We give her lots to do," Deal said.

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