Jennifer Willard, at right, hugs fellow breast cancer survivor Nancy Colglazier at the pillow project Saturday, Nov. 4. — Johnson Publications

Volunteers create heart-shaped pillows for donation to breast cancer survivors at a local pillow project Saturday, Nov. 4, hosted by Sandy Triplette for her daughter, Jennifer Willard. Pictured from left are Donna Oliver, Robin Conklin, Karla Buck, Linda Jelden, Ardis Conklin, Roxanne Miles, Sherri Drescher, Megan Garrett, Linda Sandstrom, Laura Roth, Susanne Drescher, Julie Dirks, Nancy Colglazier, Willard and Triplette. Not pictured are Mary Austin, Emily Jelden and Leslie Werner. — Johnson Publications

Impressions on the heart

Pillow project is bittersweet

    Marking 18 months cancer-free, on Aug. 3, Jennifer Willard set a  goal to make 75 heart-shaped pillows to give to women leaving the hospital after breast cancer surgery. Three months later, with help from numerous volunteers, 510 pillows have been completed.
    Eighteen volunteers gathered at the Highline Electric Association conference room Saturday, Nov. 4, to cut, sew and stuff heart-shaped pillows for Willard’s JWILL Pink Village project, adding 135 to her tally.
    Willard, a 1993 HHS graduate, explained that she was diagnosed with breast cancer on Christmas Eve 2015. After having her first mammogram at age 41 in October of that year, her results returned with a red flag. After multiple biopsies, ultrasounds and finally an MRI, the diagnosis returned positive for cancer, she said.
    Consequently, on Feb. 3, 2016, she underwent surgery for a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction at Littleton Adventist Hospital. Upon release from the hospital, the nurse gave her a pillow which made an impression on her heart, Willard said.
    The pillow was a small gesture, but it meant a lot that it was handmade with a strip of Velcro so she could slide a seat belt through it and wear it on her chest, making car trips less painful, noted Willard.
    After complications, two surgeries turned into four. Willard noted that during her recovery, the pillow was very important to her. Inspired by the gift, the idea for the pillow project blossomed.
    Willard said she needed something to look forward to and to give her hope. She just wanted to get better, pay it forward and make a difference. “The project represents goodness and kindness,” said Willard.
    “Something so simple has had such a big impact,” she said. “The project has exploded — everyone wants to get involved,” she added. “It’s more than a pillow — it’s the love and time that goes into it,” Willard explained.
     “It’s bittersweet,” said Willard. She noted that she is overwhelmed with emotion at how the project just exploded; however, it is difficult knowing what the recipients of the pillows have gone through. It is her hope that it brings them comfort both literally and emotionally, she added.
    Her journey first started at Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville where she has given the first 175 pillows. The next 200 will be donated to North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, and 200 more will be given to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.
    The gathering in Holyoke was the ninth pillow party since August, Willard pointed out. She said she feels so blessed to have met so many new friends.
    Willard lives in Superior with her husband, Steve, and two sons, A.J. and Owen Tennessen. She is the daughter of  Sandy and Rusty Triplette and Bill and Claudia Newth, all of Holyoke.
    For more information, follow the project on Facebook at JWILL Pink Village, email, or call Willard’s mom, Sandy Triplette, at 970-854-3452.

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