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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University fashion design students use their skills to help sick kids at Riley Hospital for Children.

For two weeks every semester, fashion design students at IU work on a service project. But this project hits close to home. It was inspired by one of their beloved professors’ own unthinkable journey. 

“I like to share the experience with the students to plant a little seed,” said Bo Choi, lecturer in Fashion Design at Indiana University.

Students are busy constructing reversible tote bags and pillow blankets; far different from their usual masterpieces.

“We’re not just making things. We’re making things for people,” said Natasha Williams, a senior at IU.

The bags and blankets will be donated to children at Riley Hospital. For Professor Choi, it’s a project that hits close to home. In 2020, her 6-month-old son Teddy was diagnosed with cancer.

“We find out Teddy has JMML, which is a rare form of leukemia,” Choi said.

During his 4-month stay in the ICU, Choi would sit by Teddy’s bedside and teach her students over Zoom.

“She was teaching class from the hospital,” said Williams. “If you’ve met Bo you know she’s the sweetest, kindest person and always has a smile on her face.”

Choi was often visited by the Riley Cheer Guild–a team of volunteers that deliver joy to patients and their families during their hospital stays. It inspired the idea for a service-learning project for Choi’s students. 

“What we found from our colleague was you can spread joy and support by helping others in the hospital, as well as her,” said Lori Frye, a lecturer in Fashion Design at Indiana University. “So we started the project for that reason.”

When the project is complete, the students will donate over 100 items.

“I’m not doing it for myself or my creations, I’m doing it for another child who can get a small moment of joy in their lives because they’re going through so much,” said senior Akshaya Singhal.

“I’m sure for Bo, it was very hard talking to a student body about what her son has experienced and what she experienced as a family,” said junior Jack Koceja. “It’s awesome she pioneered this project for us and I’m very thankful.”

After receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant, Teddy is now doing great! Choi says she is grateful for the love and support from her colleagues, students, IU family and Riley Hospital.