Memories and Hope Stitched Together in Walk Ahead’s New Quilt

Terry Finnerty, owner of Walking Needle L.L.C., with the Walk
Ahead memory quilt. Photo by Cindy Starr / Mayfield Clinic.

Friends of the UC Brain Tumor Center this weekend will unveil the newest addition to the annual Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure: a beautiful T-shirt quilt crafted and donated by Teresa Finnerty of Mason, Ohio. The quilt, approximately 6 feet long by 6 feet wide, is made of scraps of fabric and cutouts of T-shirts worn by Walk Ahead participants in previous years.

Organizers of Walk Ahead, including members of the Brain Tumor Center’s Community Advisory Council, plan to make the T-shirt quilt an annual project. Participants in Sunday’s 5k walk/run, which takes place at Yeatman’s Cove in Sawyer Point Park, are invited to donate their T-shirts for the 2014 quilt following the event.

“The hand-crafted work that Terry has translated from each team’s vision of hope is the building block to the future of our Walk Ahead event,” says Brian Wiles, event co-chair and Advisory Council member. “Thank you, Terry!”

Runners and walkers who have not yet registered are welcome to sign up at Saturday’s Midwest Regional Brain Tumor Conference or at registration tables in the tunnels before Sunday’s event at Sawyer Point.

Walk Ahead, which has raised more than $665,000 since its inception in 2010, supports education and research at the Brain Tumor Center at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the UC College of Medicine and UC Health.

Ms. Finnerty, a longtime friend of a Cincinnati brain tumor survivor, was a perfect choice to craft the Walk Ahead memory quilt. She lost her husband to pancreatic cancer when he was only 47, and Ms. Finnerty – who goes by Terry – is herself a cancer survivor. “It was my pleasure to make the quilt,” she says. “It was my honor to use my God-given gift of quilt-making to contribute in some way to a worthy cause!”

It is indeed a God-given gift. Terry has had the desire to sew since she was a little girl. When she was in the second grade she told her mother that she wanted to make clothes for her Barbie doll. Her mother, thinking that she herself would end up making the clothes, brushed the request aside. Terry finally got her chance in an eighth-grade home economics course, and she has been sewing ever since.

Three years ago, after concluding her career as a counselor at Princeton High School, Terry purchased a special retirement gift for herself: a professional long-arm sewing machine. Soon, she had a small but growing business. As the owner of Walking Needle L.L.C., she has about a dozen quilts in process at any given time and an enviable waiting list.

Although she describes her primary work area as being “strewn with threads” and her T-shirt cutting area as “the danger zone,” it is in fact a place that is alive with color, creativity and the joy of preserved memories. Many of her quilts are commissioned, with T-shirts provided. Others are created with T-shirts found at thrift shops or eye-catching fabrics plucked from the novelty section of fabric stores.

Terry produces her quilts in systematic fashion: cutting and interfacing shirts, laying out the quilt on a design wall, sewing the pieces together, and, finally, attaching a colorful binding and label.

The Walk Ahead quilt, like all of Terry’s quilts, is one of a kind. Come take a look at Sunday’s Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure.

— Cindy Starr

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