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Local artisans' heartfelt project aids 'brave' children undergoing cancer treatments (5 photos)

Simcoe Woodturners Guild members craft special bowls designed to hold Bravery Beads given to children for each procedure they endure

Sometimes, an ordinary looking piece of wood can transform into something beautiful that inspires and warms the heart.

That’s the case for the striking, complex pieces created recently by members of Simcoe Woodturners and Grey-Bruce Woodturners Guilds.

Late last year, group members worked diligently to create 70 handcrafted bowls that were distributed to youth and children undergoing cancer treatment at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

The bowls are designed to hold Bravery Beads, which children receive for each procedure they endure and many have hundreds that they string or display as testaments to what they have gone through already in their short lives.

“About a dozen members have been very active supporters of the Bravery Bead Bowl program and have made the majority of the bowls donated,” Simcoe Woodturners Guild past president Kelvin Stuart explains.

“A handful of members have made a further one or two bowls each.”

According to Stuart, the philanthropic gesture comes naturally since the guilds have -as one of their goals- a process whereby members can utilize their woodturning skills to give back to the community.

“The Bravery Bead Bowl program is one initiative in line with this goal,” Stuart says.

“A second is the Wig Stands for Cancer Patients program where handcrafted wig stands are donated to the Cancer Unit at RVH for distribution to patients.”

According to Stuart, members have various reasons for participating in ventures like these.

“Some do it because they enjoy making something that they know will be appreciated and bring joy to someone suffering hardship,” he says, noting others might have a personal connection with a loved one or a close friend battling the disease.

“I think the best answer to this comes from one of our members who said ‘it brings a warm feeling to your heart knowing that something you have made goes to such worthy causes.’”

Many woodturners’ clubs across North America do the same in hopes of letting these young people know they are not alone.

This is only the most recent donation by the two clubs and members are already busy making more for another collection this year.

Carl Durance, president of the Grey-Bruce guild, adds: "Our guilds are community organizations and, as such, participate in the community for the benefit of both.”

Durance says the Bravery Bead Bowls and the Wig Stands for Cancer have given the guilds “a sense of purpose, of fellowship with the other members and of the importance of helping, a little, the brave young kids whose stories are nothing short of incredible.”

Most of these bowls are segmented turning – smaller pieces of wood cut to fine tolerances and glued in layers that are then assembled and turned to final shape. The different colours of the pieces are what give the dramatic patterns. Others are from solid wood or from stave style construction. Many can be identified as the work of a specific member – uniquely styled handles or patterns that are a signature of an individual.

“During 2021, there were 55 paid-up members in the Simcoe Woodturners’ Guild,” Stuart says, noting the guild was founded in 2005.

“The membership of the guild is mainly from Barrie and the surrounding areas although there are members from places such as the Port Carling, Orangeville, Aurora and Huntsville areas.”

Both guilds have been meeting remotely – presenting demonstrations by members and by special guests from all over the world – and continue to practise and improve their skills and to offer support and encouragement to each other as well.

Adds Stuart: “The pandemic situation and growth of technology facilitating remote meetings has removed the geographical location constraint to holding meetings. “

Anyone interested in learning more about the clubs, can click here for the Simcoe guild and here for Grey-Bruce organization.

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country’s most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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