Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS by Carolyn S. Vagts

One quilting industry company is trying to make a difference, one quilt at a time. Quilters Dream Batting and its owner Kathy Thompson, are on a mission to reach and educate people everywhere about ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease.
As a quilter, you can play a considerable part in the ongoing fight against this horrible disease in more ways than one. Hopes & Dreams is accepting donations in the form of quilts. These quilts will later be presented to ALS patients nationwide. Select quilts will later be auctioned off and displayed to bolster awareness and funds for ALS research. This is exactly where all of you can get involved. Not only can you help make a considerable difference, but you can also win great prizes like batting, cash, fabric, patterns, books, and sewing machines. Every quilt donated will be featured on the Quilters Dream Batting Facebook page.

During the process of researching this cause, I fgound that the best way to make others understand the importance of this cause would be in the words of its founder, Kathy. The story of her son is a heartbreaking one. Putting a face to this disease makes it real and undeniable.


At the age of 32, my wonderful son, Josh, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). In two years, the disease has taken Josh from a strong, happy, athletic young husband and new father to being completely paralyzed—unable to eat, speak or move. He is on life support.

To say his diagnosis and this experience have been devastating is a true understatement. It was shocking to learn that a disease that was discovered well over 100 years ago has absolutely no treatment or help available. Scientists still do not know the cause and do not understand the cascade of damage.

At first we thought ALS was rare, but it is the most common neurological disorder. Every 90 minutes an American is diagnosed with ALS, and every 90 minutes an American dies of ALS. Complete paralysis (referred to as a “Glass Coffin”) and death are so rapid that there is very little interest in ALS, as it is not deemed profitable.

Most ALS patients become paralyzed and die within six months to five years of being diagnosed. For an unknown reason, more and more young people are getting ALS. The U.S. military has also been particularly hard hit, and ALS is now considered part of the Gulf War Syndrome. Today there are an estimated 35,000–50,000-plus Americans living and dying from ALS.

Still reeling from the shock and desperation of my son’s diagnosis and the terrible losses and heartbreak that he has experienced, our family decided that the best way we can honor Josh and other devastated families is to help raise awareness, help raise money for research and reach out to help underserved ALS patients.

Sponsoring a quilt-donation program and quilt contest is something I feel very strongly about. When I contacted the Virginia director of the ALS Association, she was thrilled (coincidentally she is an avid quilter!). We are hopeful that the Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge will soon be an important annual event in an effort to help raise awareness, warm the hearts and laps of suffering and forgotten ALS patients and raise research money along the way.

Kathy Thompson
(Josh’s Mom)
The First Year

In the first year of the Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge, 1,324 quilts were graciously donated. Each and every beautiful quilt was photographed and posted on Facebook for all to see. Many quilts were displayed or auctioned off to raise funds for research. Also, 1,100 quilts were proportionately divided up and sent to every ALS chapter across the country to be distributed to ALS patients. Selected quilts were even exhibited at the 2010 International Quilt Market and Festival in Houston, TX. and were displayed, once again, at the same event the year after.

In what seems almost too shocking to believe, American Veterans are 66% more likely to get ALS than regular civilians. As Kathy’s letter stated, it is not just a disease that affects the older population. Increasingly, younger and younger people are falling victim to this terrible disease.

ALS patients maintain full intelligence, while the disease robs them of the ability to move, speak, eat, swallow, and breathe. Complete paralysis and death usually occur within 6 months to 5 years, following diagnosis. To date, there is no known treatment or cure.

Quilters Can Help

Quilters: ALS sufferers and researchers need your help, desperately. Please join in by donating your quilts today, in order to help warm the hearts and laps of ALS patients and raise awareness and research money for an ALS cure.

To help make a difference and be part of a hugely worthy cause, go to www.QuiltersDreamBatting.com and download your entry form. Your quilt will bring much-needed comfort and help raise funds for further ALS research.


I, for one, will be sending in a quilt from my personal collection. I surely hope that you will too. It’s no secret that quilters have big hearts. If there is ever a need, quilters will be at the front of the line to help.

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