For a growing number of children, “Now I lay me down to sleep” means putting their head on a pillow designed by a little boy who found inspiration at vacation Bible school.
Kingston Haynes, 7, and his family have in the last few months made and distributed more than 250 pillows in a line they call “Kingston’s Kreatures.”
The pillows go to children facing serious illness or in some other way needing comfort and support.
Along with designing, Kingston heads up quality control. That means giving each Kreature a hug test before it goes out the door.
“They’ve all passed,” the second-grader said in a phone interview.
Kingston and his family attend Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On the second day of the church’s vacation Bible school last summer, he saw a video about twin brothers who made cloth toys for children who were ill or hurting in some other way.
“Kingston was obviously paying attention,” said Connie McGlaughon, the church’s program director.
Kingston asked his grandmother Rendy King — who was taking care of him that week and volunteering in vacation Bible school — if she would help him do something similar for needy children.
King has sewn since she was a girl, and offered to make a test item if he would do the design.
“He drew me a sketch on a piece of paper. We went to my fabric bin … and we made our first Kreature,” King said.
They took it to vacation Bible school and got an enthusiastic response. Kingston kept the test pillow, but the second one they made — again using fabric scraps and Poly-Fil — went to a young friend who had done him a favor.
Grandmother and grandson decided to keep going, assisted by Kingston’s parents, Lori and Nigel Haynes. His mother worked with Kingston to come up with the name Kingston’s Kreatures, and both parents took charge of stuffing the pillows.
Kingston kept the focus on helping other children.
“He’s definitely relating to a kid his age that would be sad or sick and not able to play like he gets to play,” Lori Haynes said.
The more Kitty Hawk saw of Kingston’s Kreatures, the more requests came in from parents and others who knew of a child in need. A local news story boosted interest, and a breakthrough came when Valerie Netsch offered to carry them in her Kitty Hawk children’s boutique, My Little Sunshine.
“It’s just such a remarkable act of caring and love,” she said of the family’s effort.
Kingston’s designs defy standard anatomy. Most have two eyes, but some have one and some three. Legs need not be the same size, and the same goes for arms.
But Pablo Picasso took the same risks in his Cubist phase, and Netsch loves the unpredictability of Kingston’s designs and King’s execution, which are all unique.
“They’re whimsical stuffed pillows that are really a piece of art in the eyes of a child,” she said.
Kingston and his family have insisted on giving away the Kreatures, not selling them. But they have allowed Netsch to accept donations, with $20 per creature the suggested amount.
So far, Netsch has raised about $1,000, which Kingston and his family used to buy Christmas toys for patients at Childrens Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Virginia.
Kingston’s Kreatures hasn’t organized in a formal way, but does have a Facebook page and an email address.
The family plans to keep going with making the pillows. Lori Haynes said she’s watched for signs of Kingston losing interest.
But he keeps filling his sketch pad with designs.
“I like it and it makes me happy,” Kingston said.
The Rev. Betsy Haas, associate pastor at Kitty Hawk United Methodist, gets a good feeling too as she thinks about Kingston’s Kreatures.
“To see a child respond to God at vacation Bible school in such a profound way is a pastor's dream, and speaks to the importance of VBS in our churches,” she said. “God gets the glory, and we get to watch it unfold in this young child's life. What joy!"
For more information, contact Rendy King via the Kingston’s Kreatures Facebook page or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com