Category Archives: Current Issues

University Launches SafeWalk Feature on BYU App

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By Quincey Taylor

When I came to BYU, it was the first time that I found myself walking home alone in the dark. I had always had a car when I lived with my parents, so to be all by myself in a new environment was somewhat intimidating, especially as an 18 year old girl. I had an evening class and had to walk across campus every night to my apartment in Helaman Halls. Nothing scary or dangerous ever happened to me, but it would have made a huge difference to feel safe as I was walking to and from class at night.

BYU is one of the safest college campuses in the nation. According to Business Insider, an American business news website, BYU was ranked the number one safest college campus in the nation of 2016.* While number of assaults on BYU campus is low compared to other universities, unfortunate things still happen. It is sometimes difficult for victims to feel there is help in those vulnerable moments.

To address this concern of many BYU students, a team of students on the BYUSA Student Council set out to develop and launch a mobile service to help students feel safer. In the past, students were able to call a Safewalk hotline and be physically escorted home by a police officer. However, it is impossible for officers to walk all 33,000 students home. This feature was created as a “virtual escort” so that each student that wanted to take advantage of this service is able to. Launched during the 2017 fall semester, this app allows the BYU Police Department to monitor your location to ensure you reach your destination safely. It was even featured on Campus Security and Life Safety, a magazine focusing on efforts schools are making to become safer.

Follow these steps to try it out today:

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SafeWalk is a new feature on the BYU mobile app. To find it, click “Add Features” and select it from the list. You will need to click “Launch.” I tried it out on a stroll across campus and it was easy to use. It is important to read all the instructions in order to get the best use from the app. You will be asked to confirm your phone number to ensure they have the correct one.

 

 

 

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Next, you specify your destination by clicking on the map and setting a pin. Click “Confirm Destination” and your location will begin to be monitored by the BYU Police. You will receive a confirmation text to ensure that it is working.

 

 

 

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As you walk, your screen will show a red circle that, if clicked, will call the BYU Police immediately. Please do NOT close the app without ending your Safewalk session or the police will dispatch someone to check on you. Once you have reached your destination, click “I’ve Arrived Safely” to end the Safewalk. You will receive a text stating that your location is no longer being tracked.

Lt. Steven Messick with the BYU Police Department says about the new feature, “I think we live in a time where the need may be just the fact that we’re able to do it, and maybe there’s been a need for a long, long time, for this type of thing. We can do it now, we know how to do it and so why shouldn’t we use that to make BYU a safer place?” So, if you are ever uneasy or even just curious, try it out! You can never be too careful, even on a campus like BYU.

 

*See link for Business Insider article: https://www.businessinsider.com/safest-college-campuses-in-america-2016-1

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Three Nursing Student Experiences with Ohio Internship

By Mindy Longhurst

all threeImage of Christin Hickman, James Reinhardt and Cortney Welch at The Ohio State University. Image courtesy of Hickman.

Three College of Nursing students were able to research with some of the best mentors in the field of cancer research this summer with The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). The experiences that they had this summer were once in a lifetime (to learn more about how they received the internship opportunity read our previous article https://byunursing.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/a-really-good-big-deal/). Christin Hickman, Cortney Welch and James Reinhardt were able to work with a team of fellow researchers on a certain topic about cancer or cancer-related research. The team that they worked with involved a statistician, a PhD supervisor and a few other research students. In Ohio, a study was conducted that focused on a wide range of health topics, from this information each of the students focused on one aspect of the questionnaire for possible correlations. Following the summer’s research, they worked on publishing an article about their research and presented to a room full of PhD professors on their research findings.

templeImage of Christin Hickman and others at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Columbus, Ohio temple. Image courtesy of Welch.

Christin’s experience

Christin Hickman, a fourth semester nursing student, wanted to participate in this internship experience to see if she wanted to do research full-time in the future. During this time, Hickman focused on colorectal cancer, which is a very preventable form of cancer through regular colonoscopy screenings. Hickman was able to see if there was a difference in knowledge and awareness of colorectal screening rates for those who live in urban areas versus rural areas. Through studying and research, she discovered that in Ohio there is little difference in the knowledge and amount of screenings in rural versus urban participants. The experiences that she had in Ohio helped her to prepare for the future and understand more about how research works. Hickman explains, “This experience helped me to secure my destiny. It feels like research is really what I want to do with my life.” In the future Hickman wants to study more about precision medicine and genetic research.

cortney welch with posterImage of Cortney Welch with her poster that was presented to PhD professors of her research findings. Image courtesy of Welch.

Cortney’s experience

Third semester nursing student, Cortney Welch, enjoyed her time in Ohio. She was able to research if there was a correlation in social cohesion in communities and colorectal cancer screenings. By the end of the summer, she was able to conclude that there is not a correlation in social cohesion in communities and colorectal cancer screenings. Along with the research, Welch was also able to work in a blood sample lab for patients who are using clinical trials for cancer treatment. She was able to help centrifuge, aliquoted blood and labeled the blood samples. Welch loved the experience that she received in both research labs. Welch says, “The internship was a growing experience. When I came home from the internship, I felt accomplished that I had experienced my first taste of a full-time job. I had learned how to do research, how to write a paper. I felt like it was a great use of my summer. It was hard and it was frustrating at times and tedious but I think it was well worth my time. I learned a lot.”

all three with HimesImage of Hickman, Reinhardt and Welch with assistant professor Dr. Deborah Himes. Image courtesy of Hickman.

James’ experience

James Reinhardt, a fourth semester nursing student, was able to focus his research on preventing cancer through a research study on men’s overall health. He studied at-risk participants on how they rated their health. Reinhardt tried to understand why some men would rate their health as poor. Since many of the participants did not take the survey throughout the intervention process, it was very difficult for Reinhardt to come to any conclusion about why these men rated their health as low. However, throughout the process in Ohio, Reinhardt learned many lessons. Reinhardt expounds, “I hopefully will be able to better see road blocks in future research projects. My overall experience was great! We did get to work along with medical students and students from different schools so that was a cool mix to be in. I got to learn how research is vital.”

Overall, the College of Nursing students had a great experience in Ohio. They were able to learn and grow to become better nurses. They are now taking the skills that they learned in Ohio and are implementing them into their current nursing studies.

Young Scholar Award Recipient

By Mindy Longhurst

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Dr.  Julie Valentine.

Assistant professor, Dr. Julie Valentine, received the Young Scholar Award at last week’s University Conference. This award is given to three assistant or associate professors on campus who have demonstrated exceptional research in their designated field. The recipients must be within their first 10 years of working at Brigham Young University and must be nominated by their respective college.

Valentine received this award for her research related to the field of forensic nursing, specifically in sexual assault and criminal justice system response to sexual assault. She researched sexual assault kit submission rates and predicting variables throughout Utah. Valentine’s research was instrumental in policy and legislature changes, resulting in passage of Utah House Bill 200 in 2017. This change in policy now requires submission and testing for all sexual assault kits in the state of Utah. Previously it was not required to have the kits submitted and tested.

Additionally, Valentine’s studies has focused on trauma-informed training programs with law enforcement to improve the response to sexual assault victims. Valentine has served on national committees to establish best practice guidelines for sexual assault kits.

When Valentine was informed that she would be receiving the award, she said, “I was very honored and surprised! I was especially happy because it provides extra funds for my research.”

With the award, Valentine is able to receive additional funding for her research, helping to improve our understanding of sexual and interpersonal violence to reduce violence in our communities.

BYU Grad Study Uncovers the Truth Behind E-Cigarette Labels

By Jonathan Schroeder

A recent BYU study suggests that e-cigarette users may be getting more than they paid for – twenty times as much. The study, conducted last year by BYU Nursing graduate student Barrett Raymond and associate professor Dr. Katreena Merrill, found the nicotine content of some US produced e-cigarette solutions to be significantly higher than advertised. The study was among the first of its kind to focus on prominent U.S. e-cigarette manufacturers.

“Whenever you’re doing a study, you want it to have a big impact,” Raymond said of his thesis project. “I felt like focusing this study on prominent e-cigarette manufacturers was the best way to do that.”

Raymond’s interest in the e-cigarette industry partly stems from his brother, Daniel. Daniel was a veteran of the Iraq War who returned to the States with an addiction to tobacco cigarettes. Eventually, Daniel was introduced to e-cigarettes and within two months was tobacco free. Before long, Daniel quit his job as a deputy sheriff and started a successful e-cigarette shop in Idaho Falls.

“I remember visiting my brother’s shop and watching as they made the e-cigarette solutions,” Raymond descibes. “They would use measuring cups and kitchen utensils to mix the chemicals together – poly-ethylene glycome, vegetable glycerine, a flavoring component, and a nicotine component. The nicotine would originally come in super high concentrations (1000 mg/mL) and they’d mix all the chemicals together in a five-gallon bucket; following these little recipes that were hand-written down.”

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E-Cigarette Solutions at Daniel’s Store

“It just blew my mind that this was what they were selling to consumers. The math on the recipe made sense, but they had no idea if there was any residual nicotine left on the container or utensils they were using or if there were any other factors that could impact the final product.”

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E-cigarette Solutions of 0, 3 and 18 mg/mL Concentrations

Raymond decided to conduct a study to see if the nicotine levels of e-cigarette solutions being sold actually matched what was listed on the labels. However, rather than focus on just a local cigarette shop in Idaho, Raymond focused his study on major U.S. e-cigarette manufacturers.

“I didn’t want to conduct a study that only applied to Utah or Idaho,” Raymond explains. “I wanted it to apply to the U.S., as a whole. The only way to really do that was to go online and look at major manufacturers.”

Raymond and Merrill identified the seven most popular US-based e-cigarette manufacturers using a Google search. They then purchased samples of the five most popular flavors from each manufacturer in nicotine concentrations of 0 and 18 mg/mL and tested them with the help of the BYU Chemistry and Nutrition departments to see if the nicotine content matched what was on the label. The results were pretty shocking.

“Of the thirty-five 18 mg/mL samples we tested, we found that most of them varied from 35 percent below the stated nicotine amount to 53 percent higher than the stated amount,” Raymond states. “To give you an idea, one of the manufacturers told us that the acceptable range of tolerance for nicotine levels is plus-or-minus 10 percent. Most of our findings fell outside of this range.”

However, the real surprise came in the results for the ‘nicotine-free’ samples. Of the thirty-five 0 mg/mL samples, almost all of them (91 percent) contained at least a trace amount of nicotine or more. Four samples of these samples contained more than 20 mg/mL of nicotine.

“What these results show is that adolescents who use e-cigarettes that are labeled ‘nicotine free’ could be constantly exposing themselves to small amounts of this addictive substance, without even realizing it,” Raymond adds. “What’s more is that their parents may unwillingly approve of their child’s e-cigarette use because they assume there’s no nicotine, when in reality that’s not always the case.”

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A donut-flavored “nicotine-free” vaping solution purchased from a major e-Cigarette manufacturer.

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This last finding could place Raymond’s study at the center of an ongoing national debate. A recent study by the National Institute of Health revealed that more than a third of high school seniors in the US had used an e-cigarette in 2017 – and that’s just among upperclassmen. In 2016, the US Surgeon General reported that the use of e-cigarettes among high school students had increased by 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. In light of this crisis, many officials in Congress and the Food and Drug Administration have started to push for greater oversight of the $4 billion e-cigarette industry.

Raymond says he hopes this study will prompt e-cigarette companies to step forward and make improvements, on their own—a call to action that some manufacturers have already answered. Not long after the study was published, one of the manufacturers reached out to Raymond, asking him to share the product code of the study samples so they could identify the problem.

“I appreciated that,” Raymond remarks. “This is the kind of impact you hope to have when you do a study like this.”

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Barrett Raymond presenting his findings at a Tobacco Nicotine Research Symposium in Florence, Italy

Raymond also had the opportunity to present his findings at a Tobacco Nicotine Research Symposium in Florence, Italy. There he had the chance to interact with other e-cigarette researchers from around the world.

“It was an awesome opportunity to meet with these experts and share ideas with them,” Raymond says. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Merrill and the BYU College of Nursing for making this experience possible.”

Raymond and Merrill’s study, “The Nicotine Content of a Sample of E-cigarette Liquid Manufactured in the United States” was recently published in the March/April 2018 edition of The Journal of Addiction Medicine

 

Seize Your Moment! — Taking the Initiative for Mentored Learning

By Jonathan Schroeder

Fourth-semester BYU nursing student Jeana Escobar has never been afraid to take initiative. At the age of 16, Escobar performed her first surgical operation after her dog developed a tumor on the scruff of his neck. Before her parents could stop her, Escobar went to her dad’s tool bench, found some sharp tools, and took the tumor out herself (much to her parent’s dismay and the vet’s amazement). Now years later, Escobar’s initiative has led her to a new project – a unique mentored learning opportunity developing a post-fall assessment tool for nursing homes.

It all started during a class lecture in Escobar’s second-semester gerontology course. Assistant teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters paused to mention that he was interested in writing a paper on post-fall assessments.

“Whenever a patient falls in a medical setting, you need to do a thorough assessment to make sure they’re OK before you put them back into bed,” Escobar says. “But oftentimes in a long-term care facility, the person who finds the patient doesn’t have the proper training to conduct those assessments.”

Winters explained that in older adults, injuries often take longer to manifest than in younger patients. “He talked about how if you or I fall and bump our elbow, we’ll have a bruise almost immediately,” Escobar says. “But in older adults, bruises can take a day or more to manifest.”

It was little more than a brief tangent to the lecture. Most students probably didn’t even take notice of it. Escobar, on the other hand, was already getting excited about the possibilities.

“In high school, my teacher always talked about the importance of getting involved in your discipline during college. It really is the best time because you have time and you have plenty of opportunities to interact with professors. Really, the only thing holding you back is yourself. So when I heard Blaine mention this paper, I knew I needed to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Within a few weeks, Escobar was hired on as research assistant and began meeting with Winters and assistant teaching professor Tracy Dustin. Together, the three of them sifted through dozens of studies and academic articles for information on post-fall assessments. Much to their surprise, they were only able to find four articles written on the subject over the past two decades. The team then came to a decision that none of them had originally anticipated. Instead of writing a paper, they would develop a standardized post-fall assessment tool.

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Image Source: Pexels, 2018.

The post-fall assessment tool is a procedure that long-term care facility staff can follow to ensure that patients receive the care they need. It’s based off of advanced trauma life-support (ATLS) procedures, as well as other important post-trauma assessments. The idea is that long-term care facility staff will be able to follow this procedure to provide better care for their patients.

And while some college research opportunities may seem like busy work, Escobar says she’s enjoyed being fully involved in this project.

“Blaine and Tracy are so supportive,” Escobar explains. “They make me feel like I’m an equal member of the team. I don’t feel like it’s their project and I’m just a footnote somewhere, helping him file papers. I’m really equally involved with them and that they value my input.”

Now that the tool has been developed, Escobar, Winters, and Dustin are working with the College of Nursing Media Team to create several training videos that will explain the tool to long-term care facility personnel. The hope is that, together with the tool, these videos will help staff provide better care for their patients.

“It’s been so exciting to see this tool come together,” Escobar says. “When Blaine mentioned he wanted to write a paper in class, it was almost like a passing thought. Now we’ve created this tool and we’re getting ready to create the training videos so we can test it out. I’ve loved seeing just how if you have an idea and you just put your best effort into it, it can really come alive.”

When asked what this project meant to her BYU experience, Escobar expressed how grateful she was for the chance to be involved and contribute to the nursing discipline. She also found that this project helped her rediscover her passion for gerontology.

“I always knew I liked gerontology; I think older adults are amazing. But participating in this project helped me see that not only do I like them, but I have a passion for their well-being and improving the quality of care that they receive.”

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Image Source: Pexels, 2018.

Even though she still has a year left in the nursing program, Escobar has already started looking at graduate programs that specialize in adult critical care and gerontology.

“When opportunities are presented to you, you just need to go for it,” Escobar advises other students seeking mentored learning opportunities. “If there’s something you’re interested in, even if you’re just curious about it, you should go talk to the professor and see what you can get involved in. If they don’t have any projects, tell them something you’re interested in and more than likely they’d be happy to work with you. But you’ll never know until you ask.”

The post-fall assessment training videos are scheduled to be introduced at several long-term care facilities in the Utah Valley sometime this summer. Escobar, Winters, and Dustin plan to present their findings on the effect of the training video at the Utah Nurses Association Conference in September 2018.

Alumni responding to Crisis: When Disaster Struck, BYU Nursing Alumni Answered the Call

The two historic storms slammed into the Southeast coast of United States within mere weeks of each other. The National Weather Service called Hurricane Harvey “unprecedented.”

According to CNN, Harvey dropped an estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain over the course of six days and left a third of Houston, Texas, flooded. Irma was the strongest hurricane to hit Florida in over a decade, dumping more than 10 inches of rain and leaving nearly three-quarters of the state in the dark. Because of the impacts of these storms, the 2017 hurricane season may be the most expensive in US history.

During these hard times of destruction and uncertainty, many people stepped in to help combat the devastating effects of the hurricanes. Among them were BYU College of Nursing alumni.

The Damage

“I was shocked by the impact [of the hurricanes],” says Paige Newman Dayhuff (BS ’16), who lives in the northern Houston area of Conroe. “Along some roads, every house was gutted, and the first floor was bare to the wood framing.”

Dayhuff saw firsthand much of the damage, particularly when officials released water from an upstream dam to prevent it from bursting. Officials told the Wall Street Journal that in Houston alone, at least 136,000 buildings were flooded during Harvey’s rampage.

“The freeways, both northbound and southbound from us, were blocked by water,” she says. “In some low-lying areas, the water had risen over fifteen feet and flooded the freeway entrances and exits. My home as never flooded, but houses about five minutes from us were.”

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Kimberly Coleby Ethington (BS ’99) of Tomboll, Texas, was working at the hospital when Hurricane Harvey first hit.

“I was up on the seventh floor of a NICU/nursery unit,” Ethington says. “We listened to the rain and wind all night. I was told to pack a bag just in case the roads would not be passable to make it back home.”

Ethington did manage to get home, but her neighborhood flooded soon after, preventing her from returning to the hospital for several days. Her coworkers at the hospital fared little better.

“Basically whoever was at the hospital Saturday morning stayed until the following Tuesday or Wednesday trapped at the hospital and flooded in,” she says. “Through the tornado warnings, all babies and parents were moved to one inside hallway and triage room. One floor of the hospital that had not been in use was made available during the storm and up to two weeks after for families of workers who had no place to go. We called it Hotel Harvey.”

Oncology nurse Joanne Grant Dortch’s (AS ’84) own place of work was hard hit as well. “Our clinic lost power for a week, and I was stranded at my house in Kingwood during that time due to flooding,” she says.

The Job

One of the main ways in which BYU nursing alumni responded to the hurricanes was continuing to work as nurses.

The Wednesday following Harvey’s initial landfall, the roads were clearer, and Ethington returned to the hospital to work the night shift as a recovery nurse. The hospital had also flown in several nurses from out of state to address the massive needs that Harvey created.

“I worked several nights in a row and some days on my floor until things got back to normal over the week,” Ethington says. “We did have one baby that could have been discharged earlier, but her parents’ home had been flooded, and we weren’t going to send a preemie to a hotel, so we let the family stay a few extra days rooming in.”

“When we were able to get out onto the roads and to another clinic that wasn’t affected by Harvey, we called all of our patients to check on them, do whatever we could to help, and get them back on their chemo schedules,” says Dortch. “These patients become our friends, and we love them. We were worried about their white cells, red cells, and platelets being low, we worried about pain, infection, having nowhere to live in some cases, and so many other things.”

The Cleanup

Following Harvey, many members in wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rallied to assist in the cleanup. Dayhuff’s ward was one of them.

“Members of our congregation responded immediately to flooded houses, organizing groups to help with people’s homes in the area,” Dayhuff says. “We probably spent about three weeks cleaning out houses, with some people working for up to ten hours every day.”

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Tricia Bunderson (BS ’09)

She explained that members were divided into teams that would help gut homes and help the owners clean. They wore masks to prevent inhaling mold spores or other contaminants. They frequently would walk to the neighbors’ houses right after to offer assistance.

“Sheetrock, furniture, appliances, anything on the first level that had been in the water had to be discarded,” she says. “We piled the waste on the sides of the road. I was just in awe of the number of homes affected. It’s not like a fire, where one or two houses are burned, but whole neighborhoods that were destroyed. I had never been part of a natural disaster, and it was overwhelming to think of all the people affected.”

Throughout all these experiences, BYU nursing alumni proved that the Healer’s art could be practiced anywhere, be it in the hospital or a house ruined by flooding.

“For about three consecutive Sundays we had condensed church meetings, gathering for only an hour and dispersing to cleaning out homes right after,” Dayhuff says. “I loved gathering in our jeans and yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts—there was just such a feeling of willingness to serve and anticipation for being able to help others.”

As a nurse, Dayhuff also served as a “handwashing enforcer” at the sites. She later worked sorting out deliveries of supplies at a donation zone in a converted steel manufacturing warehouse. She says she was overwhelmed by the charity and love displayed by people.

“We had truckloads of donations arriving hourly—food, hygiene supplies, bedding, so many clothes, cleaning supplies, baby products, books, toys. We had everything pouring in,” she says. “After a week of organizing, we opened the facility to those needing the supplies. The flood victims came through with shopping carts and were able to take what they needed according to the number of people in their family. Many of the people had lost everything. I felt so blessed to see their reaction when they received the donations. I wish those who had sent the donations could have seen the gratitude and humility on those people’s faces!”

“Today I got my chance to go help for a few hours,” says Tricia Terry Bunderson (BS ’09). “It was hot. It was smelly. The mold was already setting in. But I’ve never been so happy to get my hands dirty and help strangers who have lost so much.”

Bunderson’s family realizes that the amount of cleanup and rebuilding to be done is daunting, but they know that it takes one day at a time for the city to recover.

“I’ve seen grocery stores stocking shelves as fast as humanly possible, nurses working even though their own homes have been flooded, and oil workers pulling long shifts to get the plants up and running again. This teamwork really pulls at my heart. I am in awe of the hardworking, selfless, and brave people of Houston. We truly are #hoUStonstrong.”

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Sometimes circumstances prevented BYU alumni from being able to work in the cleanup, but their family members attended. The experiences taught them lessons about gratitude.

Amy Culter Benson (BS ’00) lives in Haslet, Texas, almost six hours’ drive time from where Harvey hit. Her husband, an LDS bishop, brought sixty members of their congregation to the cleanup efforts at the invitation of an Area Seventy. Benson had a nursing baby and was unable to go with the crews, but she prepared supplies, babysat kids, and packed lunches.

“They left before dawn on Saturday morning and drove five hours to Port Arthur. They tore down sheetrock, ripped out carpet, removed furniture, clothing, toys, and appliances,” Benson says. “Dave, my husband, felt the words to several LDS hymns they sang in sacrament meeting were especially powerful—‘Because I Have Been Given Much,’ ‘Come, Follow Me,’ and ‘Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel.’ It was a powerful experience to be part of a huge cleanup effort like that.”

Ethington found herself in a similar situation.

“As I worked the night shift those first few days when people started cleaning up, my teenagers during the day went out to serve,” she says “They helped families in the neighborhoods close by that we knew at first. The weeks after we joined Helping Hand crews to help muck out homes further away. It was a memorable experience for our family.”

Some of the College of Nursing’s other Helping Hands volunteers were Rachel Camille Stewart (BS ’00) and her family. Although the Stewarts’ home in Augusta, Georgia, is more than 100 miles from the coast, the Stewarts have already helped clean up after five hurricanes, sometimes spending as much as eight hours traveling to reach impacted areas. Like Benson, Stewart has usually stayed at home with the kids while her husband and two teenage sons have gone to work clearing debris and fallen trees.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma—just two weeks after Stewart’s husband was called to be a bishop—an Area Seventy asked for volunteers to serve in inundated Jacksonville, Florida, which experienced its worst flooding in almost 100 years.

Stewart says their story is not unique. For years, many of their LDS neighbors have also answered the call to help in areas across the Southeast.

“The blessings of laboring in the service of others brings such joy that the youth in our area jump at the chance to participate,” Stewart explains. “Even though the work is long and difficult, the people served are always so grateful for the cheerful service provided. Truly it is a blessing to be able to literally and figuratively lift the burdens of our brothers and sisters in need.”

Steven Tibbitts, Jonathan Schroeder, and Jeff L. Peery contributed to the research and writing of this article.

Volunteers at BYU Craft 301 Yarn Wigs for Children Battling Cancer

By Calvin Petersen

More than 500 people sacrificed sleep and St. Patrick’s Day plans to make yarn wigs for child cancer patients at the Magic Yarn Project’s largest-ever wig workshop. Co-hosted by the Magic Yarn Project and BYU College of Nursing, the event on March 17 was the second workshop of its kind.

“No one leaves these workshops without a smile on their face or without feeling like their simple act of love will make the world a better place. I love being able to witness that in their countenances,” said Holly Christensen, BYU alumna and co-founder of the Magic Yarn Project.

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The Magic Yarn Project began in 2015 when Christensen crafted a yarn Rapunzel wig for her friend’s daughter, who had lost much of her hair in chemotherapy. Now three years later, the Magic Yarn Project has made the world a better place for over 7,000 children battling cancer in 36 countries. Each of these children has received a hand-made princess or pirate yarn wig at no cost. Wigs take approximately two hours to make and are crafted by volunteers at wig workshops.

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Wig workshop volunteers pose with 301 completed wigs after the service event on March 17, 2018.

“It was a huge success!” Christensen said of this year’s BYU wig workshop. While most of the wigs will be distributed by BYU nursing students during their clinicals at Primary Children’s Hospital, Ryver had the chance to choose her wig in person. She wore an Anna wig and a wide smile as her mother pushed her around the Wilkinson Ballroom in a stroller. Not even three years old, Ryver was diagnosed with leukemia only a few months ago.

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“It was heart-warming to see Princess Ryver light up when she got her wig, and equally rewarding to see her mother get excited about picking out a wig with her. Ryver’s presence definitely made the workshop memorable and was a sweet reminder that this is what the project is all about,” said Christensen. For her, the experience of personally gifting a wig was rare; most wigs are mailed to individuals and cancer centers around the world.

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The wig workshop at BYU brought the community together. Among the hundreds of volunteers knotting, braiding and decorating yarn hairpieces was 17-year-old Connor Munden. His grandmother’s involvement in the Magic Yarn Project Utah Chapter inspired an Eagle Scout Service Project to prepare for BYU’s workshop. Along with family and friends, Connor cut most of the yarn—thousands of feet of it—that eventually became 301 completed wigs.

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In addition, students from BYU and members of the Magic Yarn Project Utah Chapter volunteered to teach those coming to the workshop how to make various wigs. “This event helped me realize there are lots of different ways to serve those with cancer,” said Maggie Gunn, a BYU nursing student and wig instructor at the workshop, “We may not be able to cure their cancer, but we can provide comfort and love which, in my opinion, is just as important as the chemo.”

“With the Magic Yarn Project, there’s something for everyone,” concluded BYU nursing student Jessica Small, “Whether bedazzling flowers or tying yarn to a wig, people of all ages can come together and make a difference in the lives of so many children.”

Next year’s BYU wig workshop will take place on March 16, 2019. To learn more about the Magic Yarn Project, visit www.themagicyarnproject.com.

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“Everyone knows someone who has struggled with cancer: a family member, friend, patient or ward member. While we can’t cure someone’s cancer, we can help, comfort and love them. Making these wigs is a way to show child cancer patients that they’re loved,” said Jane Goodfellow, a fourth-semester BYU nursing student. Goodfellow (right) is pictured with fellow nursing student Leah Guerrero (left). The two volunteered as instructors at the wig workshop.