By JOHN PRZYBYS, Las Vegas Review-Journal
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Think about it, and a quilt is the perfect gift for someone still dealing with the pain, fear and loss of the Route 91 Harvest festival shootings.
A quilt is warm, soft, inviting, something that a grieving family member or still struggling viewer can literally wrap themselves in. And if it’s a handmade quilt, it carries with it the good emotional vibes of its creator.
For the past three years, the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center has shared the comfort of quilts with survivors, family members, first responders, and attendees of the October 1, 2017, country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip that ended in gunfire, the deaths of 60 people and hundreds of injuries. Fifty-eight people died that night. Two more deaths were later attributed to the shooting.
Through the centre’s October 1 Quilting Project, handmade quilts are distributed via raffle to those affected by the shooting to serve as both a keepsake and a gift of emotional and physical comfort.
Registration for raffle tickets runs until October 31 and winners will be notified by November 5.
The program began in the months following the shooting, Tennille Pereira, director of the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“In the first year, a local quilting guild contacted Clark County to donate quilts,” she said. This effort – which was similar to a project that followed the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, Florida – was “so well received and such a moving thing for survivors and bereaved families, that we have decided to do it again “.
This year’s raffle marked the project’s fourth quilt distribution.
“Last year we got around 900 requests and I think we had 100 quilts,” Pereira said.
Previous distributions have seen quilts shipped to Canada and to states as far away as Alaska, Pereira said, reflecting the reality that many of the more than 20,000 concert ticket holders were tourists.
The quilts, which volunteer quilters create year round, feature personalized touches. According to Pereira, this year’s collection includes a quilt with the names of the shooting victims and a Vegas Golden Knights-themed quilt.
The experience can be emotional for both quilters and recipients. Pereira said a quilter’s husband had recently passed away “and she decided to make a quilt as part of her healing and mourning.”
Pereira knows a young woman who was pregnant when she attended the concert.
“I think it was the second year that she had a quilt and used it as a baby blanket,” Pereira said. “He loves the quilt and uses it all the time. He uses it to watch cartoons and takes it to the park as a blanket.
He loves the comforter and uses it all the time. He uses it to watch cartoons and takes it to the park as a blanket.
Carolyn Arostegui has made three quilts for the project over the past three years. She’s been making quilts since her teens in the late 60s and estimates that she makes an average of three to five quilts a year.
Making quilts for the families of Route 91 is “really a great thing to do,” she said. “You feel so good making the quilt and you know whoever is going to get your quilt is going to love it. I just hope they can feel all the love that comes with it.
For quilters and recipients, “it makes so much sense,” Pereira says, and the project “heals on both sides.
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