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Senior Turns Challenge Into Opportunity

Pillow Project Pine-Richland High School senior Shelby Petonak took a challenge and turned it into an opportunity to help others.  

After her mother underwent treatment for breast cancer, she launched an innovative program called Pillows for Patients. She worked with Allegheny Health Network to ensure patients received a special pillow that helped with surgery discomfort. It worked for her mom and she wondered why patients didn’t receive the pillows.

Seeing how much the pillows helped, Shelby collected money through her website, which can be found at and at some home football games this year.  All of the donations go directly to purchasing pillows that are shaped like hearts. Makers of the pillows – Masthead are selling them to her at a reduced rate. The shape makes the pillows work well, because you can put them under your armpit and they are made of beads like a beanbag.

“We didn’t know a lot of people,” she said. “But Shelby’s a cheerleader for Pine-Richland High School and the cheer family really rallied around our family and they’ve really supported her in this project.”

Shelby collected money at some of the football games this year but the bulk of the donations have come through the website, One-hundred percent of the donations go toward purchasing the pillows, which Masthead, makers of the Axillapilla, are selling to the program at a reduced rate. They typically retail for $24.