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Volunteer Nancy Dorl, left, and Belleville Middle School seventh-graders Brian Weasner, 12, and Marissa Atkins, 12, make Honors Quilts for cancer survivors during a class project.

BELLEVILLE - By a show of hands, a number of students in a seventh-grade social studies class at Belleville Middle School indicated they have seen family members face a cancer diagnosis.

So perhaps the "Honors Quilt" the class is making for a UW Carbone Cancer Center patient has deep meaning.

The class is one of several at the school making quilts to "make a difference in the world."

"Even though they are 12, 13 and 14 years old, there's a lot of things they can do," said teacher Bob Gentilli, explaining what he hopes the students are learning from the project.

Gentilli's sister died of cancer six years ago.

"We're trying to give people hope that they're not fighting alone," said seventh-grader Zachary Kukuris, 13.

The students did research for the quilt, choosing fabric colors that symbolize what patients have said gives them inspiration to fight. Yellow, for example, symbolizes the sun. Other fabrics represent the colors of ribbons assigned to various cancers.

The class was divided into the "Shakers" who design and promote the quilt project and the "Makers" who spent class periods stitching the quilt squares at Patches and Petals quilt shop in Belleville.

"(Gentilli) asked us who knew how to sew and we raised our hands," said Claire Butters, 12, one of the Makers who learned to sew at her grandmother's house.

All of the fabric was donated, much of it coming from the Quilt Expo held in Madison and from Kathy Gile, manager of Patches and Petals. The batting also was donated, and professional quilters have offered to do the quilting. Parents and grandparents volunteered to help with the sewing at the quilt shop.

Gile, whose sister Lynn Alme owns the quilt shop, said they got involved in the project to give back to the community and to encourage the younger generation to sew.

In addition to presenting the quilt some time after the New Year, the middle-schoolers are raising money for the Carbone Cancer Center.

Three other quilts are being made by Gentilli's other classes. They'll go to St. Mary's Care Center, a Belleville Middle School teacher fighting cancer, and a family who has frequently stayed at Ronald McDonald House in Madison while the teenage daughter has received medical care.

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