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First-Graders Make Quilts to 'Bring Smile' to the Falkenhan Family

Fallen firefighter's family, which lives in Middle River, will be presented with the quilt in the coming weeks.

The first-grade classes at will be presenting handmade quilts to the Falkenhan family, in memory of fallen firefighter

Eighty-one first graders contributed a quilting square that they created themselves with a single piece of cotton fabric and crayons.

“They were told they were making a quilt for someone special, to make them smile,” first-grade teacher Sara Mullan said. 

The children don’t know that the quilts, sewn together from their crayoned blocks of fabric, are for a fallen firefighter’s family. They only know that the quilts are for a special member of their community, and their goal was to bring a smile.

The classes will be presenting their quilts to the sometime in the next few weeks. The fire department will see the quilts safely to the Falkenhan family.

“They were just given this little piece of fabric,” said Rachael Myers, another first-grade teacher, “and then we told them, ‘Draw a picture of something that would make you smile, and that would make somebody smile.’”

Last year’s Quilting Day in first grade also yielded three quilts. They were donated to local hospitals through Project Linus, sponsored by the Baltimore Heritage Quilt Guild.

This year, though, the teachers looked closer to home, when they wondered to whom to donate the quilts. 

They looked no further than one of their own students, Samuel Wilmot, whose ties to the fire station inspired an idea.

Sara said she contacted the Wilmots, who were immediately on board. 

Samuel’s parents, David and Meghan, are both active at the Lutherville Fire Department. Both have been volunteer firefighters. David is currently a third lieutenant, and Meghan, who keeps up with her EMT training, is the assistant treasurer.

“We were 100 percent ecstatic that she thought of the fire house, and us,” said Meghan. 

Both were hit hard by the death of their friend and colleague in January.

"We thought it was a wonderful idea to memorialize a man that was just … he was just a wonderful man,” Meghan said. 

Meghan remembered that she and David got together with the Falkenhans every year at the firehouse bull roasts and banquets, and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. They had plans to go to a happy hour together, on Saturday, Jan. 22, “to catch up,” said Meghan, “because we hadn’t seen each other in a couple months.”

Falkenhan, who lived in Middle River, died on Wednesday, Jan. 19, fighting a four-alarm apartment fire in Hillendale. 

She and David both still feel Falkenhan’s absence daily, and she was delighted that Falkenhan would be remembered in such an innocent, touching way, by Samuel’s classmates.

Samuel and his classmates learned about quilting from the Quilting Trunk, rented from the Maryland Historical Society. The trunk, which circulates among schools, contains books, slides and videos, antique sewing tools, quilt patterns, games and many images of quilts from different communities.

The first-graders used fabric triangles and squares to create patterns of flowers and sunbursts. They read a picture book called The Quiltmaker’s Gift, viewed a PowerPoint presentation created by one of Kate’s colleagues from the Quilt Guild, and learned about women’s history, sewing circles, and the past and present.

A quilt can tell a story, and the children knew they were going to be telling a story of their own.

Their story is called “Make Someone Smile.”

Kate Mullan, Sara’s mother, was on hand as the quilting expert. She ironed freezer paper to the backs of each piece of fabric to stabilize the surfaces, anticipating the difficulties the children would have when drawing with crayons directly onto thin cotton fabric squares.

The young artists could more easily draw their flowers, fish, balloons, hearts and rainbows, using small steady hands and fat crayons.

The colors from the crayons are likewise permanently set into the cotton, afterward, using heat from an iron. The end result is three quilts, pieced together from four classrooms of children’s artwork.

Kim Rivers May 19, 2011 at 02:40 PM
What a great idea! When my 20 year old son was killed,I had a quilt made of all his tee shirts that he wore,it not only brought a smile to face but tears to my eyes. I use it all the time and it does bring great comfort to me.The family will love it.
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