Kansas women make tree skirt for Sandy Hook victims

12/1/2013

GREAT BEND (AP) — Two Kansas women have memorialized each victim of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in a custom-made Christmas tree skirt.

GREAT BEND (AP) — Two Kansas women have memorialized each victim of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in a custom-made Christmas tree skirt.

The Hutchinson News reported that Patti Smith, of Great Bend, had grandchildren around the age of the 20 children killed last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School and was glued to the news coverage. She had created personalized Christmas tree skirts for her three grown children, and decided to make one for Sandy Hook.

"It kind of became a prayer skirt," she said. "The very last stitch was the gold heart."

Smith was inspired to incorporate teddy bears in the tree skirt because many people brought them to memorials after the shootings. For personal touches, she read the biographies of the children and school staff.

There's a baseball on the skirt for one victim and a Giants helmet for another. She stitched a teddy bear wearing a firefighter's red hat and yellow coat to honor a little boy who wanted to be a firefighter.

At first, Smith planned to sew each victim's name in sequins but realized embroidery would speed the process. She sought help from Sheila Smither, who owns and operates Roth Embroidery, a family business.

Smith told Smither she was going to pay her, but Smither refused. Smither is also a mother and grandmother and like Smith, she also immersed herself in learning what made the children unique.

Each victim's name and age are embroidered on a separate square around the skirt. Block lettering spells out the six slain educators' names. Smither selected different fonts for the children's names, trying to match the font to the child's personality.

Smith's son, Tyler Mermis, is chief of police in Marion and has met the Newtown police chief, who lives near a victim's family. Smith will try to contact the chief, hoping he can provide a place to send the tree skirt.

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