Del Mar-Solana Beach Optimist Club member makes life a little better for kids with cancer

By Claire Harlin

For critically ill children, it’s hard enough being hospitalized. The changing numbers and constant drip of the bedside IV monitor can only add more stress to a traumatic experience.

That’s why Audrey Eller, a longtime member of the Del Mar-Solana Beach Optimist Club, came up with something to make things a little easier for kids. A little thread, two straps and some bright, cheery fabric, she found, would do the trick in making an IV pole cover that’s enjoyable to look at. She calls the endeavor Covers With Love, and she’s given well over 100 cloth covers to Rady Children’s Hospital.

In addition to the pole covers, Eller has designed a fleece blanket that fits perfectly over a child’s lap when sitting in a wheelchair.

“They can take it with them when they go to therapy and there is a pocket on top that can hold a book or a journal,” she said.

Eller has made about 50 of the blankets for kids at Rady, many of which will be used in Rady’s “Camp Reach for the Sky,” which is geared specifically for kids with cancer. At the camp, headed by Steve Barbosa, each child will be given a blanket with a flashlight inside the pocket.

Barbosa gave a moving presentation of thanks to attendees of the Feb. 15 Del Mar-Solana Beach Optimist Club meeting. He said kids are often easier to treat than adults because they have faith and still believe in magic.

“When patients are loved that helps with the healing process,” said Barbosa, who has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and said he studied the magic different cultures have embraced in objects, such as crucifixes.

He asked Eller how long it takes to construct one blanket, and she replied, “about an hour and a half.”

“That time and energy doesn’t just float away,” he said. “Fundamentally, these objects are cloth and thread, but they mean more than that. They are a symbol of someone else’s love, time and effort — and that’s magic.”

Eller’s idea to make the pole covers sprung from her own traumatic hospitalization experience.

“I remember the drip, drip, drip and it was terrible,” she said.

Rady spokeswoman Dawn Ivy said Eller has also helped make more than 300 baby caps and booties for hospital patients.

“The kids who receive these gifts in the hospital really cherish them,” she said. “When we see patients 10 years later, they still have them.”

For more information or to drop off cover donations, visit

; 760-510-9535; email: