'Pillowcase Lady' creates colorful comfort for kids in hospital

Toni Casto wins Getting Results Award

ST.CLOUD, Fla. – Toni Casto is this week's News 6 Getting Results Award winner.

Casto, known as the "Pillowcase Lady" to employees at Nemours Children's Hospital in Lake Nona, has donated more than 2,000 themed pillowcases to patients of the center.

Nearly every day, Casto retreats to her small sewing room and gets to work.

"It's just my favorite place to be," she said while ironing baseball-themed pillowcase material. "I'm either cooking or sewing." 

Her television, located in another room, is tuned to the jazz and swing channel, as big band music echoes into the room.

"Normally, I have it louder and I'm singing," she laughed.

She said she can create about 25 cases every two weeks.

"I turn my music on, because without that I can't sew," she said.

Most of the material is donated by friends and family. 

"I like 'Hello, Kitty,' Buzz Lightyear and of course, Superman and Wonder Woman. The princesses are also very popular," she said.

Casto started the project in 2014, shortly after recovering from vocal cord cancer.

"When I was in radiation, I would see all those babies and they weren't allowed to have teddy bears or blankets or anything from home -- all this white hospital stuff," she said. "Well, that's not fun."

Casto said much of her time behind the sewing machine is spent thinking of the kids who will be receiving the cases.

"I say a little prayer while I'm at it," she said. "I wish all these kids that got these pillowcases got better. That's what goes through my mind." 

Every pillowcase must be ironed, steamed and placed in a plastic bag before it can be delivered. Although she doesn't get to hand them out herself, she said she's told the kids really enjoy choosing their favorite pattern.

Casto was nominated for the award by her neighbor, Kelly Shrieves.

"Here she is retired," Shrieves said. "And she's still serving and making these pillowcases for children in the hospital. So, I think she's pretty special."

Casto has been featured in her local paper and received mention in a sewing magazine. She can't believe the attention that her project has attracted.    

"I'm doing something and it's for a purpose," she said. "If it makes those kids smile and they like them, it makes it all worth while." 

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