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VIDEO and STORY: Heart of Our City — A patchwork of pastimes

Erin Seidemann was born with a rare disability but that doesn’t stop her from volunteering.
Erin Seidmann is an avid quilter, knitter and volunteer in the community. Currently, she’s raising funds for the Relay for Life in May.

Much like the quilts she stitches with love, Erin Seidemann is an elaborate mosaic — with an array of interests, volunteer duties and a supportive family.

She’s stitched more than 10 quilts, including one for the mayor, since she began 15 years ago.

As she described taking up the craft for the Lutheran Canadian World Relief agency, a ball of yarn sat next to her on the table, suggesting her projects aren’t just for the thread and needle.

“We sew up quilts for people in South Africa or Europe or somewhere where they don’t have blankets or quilts,” Seidemann said.

Knitting is her other hobby, and her current project is a blanket for her uncle’s birthday — a day before her own — on May 23. She has a long way to go in that short period of time.

“Whenever I’m working on a project, whether I’m binding a quilt or if I’m knitting and I’m trying to get a deadline done, I’m up — I stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning,” she said.

The same determination she has for her crafting is apparent in her work for the Relay for Life. Her team is with the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and her goal this year is to raise just over $1,000, she’s currently at $420.

Her brother, Hans, said that she’s raised nearly $10,000 since she started fundraising for the annual event. On May 27, she’ll walk for 12 long hours for her 13th relay, and in September she’ll fundraise for her 16th Terry Fox Run.

With all that Seidemann has done in her life for others, and even travelling around the world for herself, it’s important to note that she does everything while navigating her disability.

She was born with Duane Syndrome, a rare disorder that limits movement in one of her eyes and causes hearing loss. Throughout her life, Seidemann has used hearing aids.

“I have lost hearing aids growing up. I can’t remember how many I’ve lost,” she said, then takes out the high-tech aids she’s using now.

Her new Bluetooth aids allow her to adjust the volume with her iPhone, and even mute when she wants to tap out. The way these aids wrap around her ears, she’s less likely to lose these ones.

Hearing is essential for her other volunteer activities at the Lester Centre of the Arts. She works behind the scenes for general manager, Crystal Lorette, who has made her the prop manager assistant in past musicals.

“It’s neat working backstage. I get to meet new friends and some old friends I’ve seen over the years that I reconnect with,” she said.

She’s helped out with the most recent Lester Centre anniversary celebration and has worked on several community musicals over the years. And yes, she’s made a quilt for Lorette.

Prince Rupert has always been her home, and she’s part of the fabric that makes the community thrive. She has a large supportive family and she boasts at having two moms, two dads and four siblings, who she often babysits, dog sits or housesits for.

But she’s not tied to the North Coast. Seidemann has explored the roots of her heritage — she’s travelled to Germany, as well as Norway. This year she’s returning to Hawaii. She also has fond memories of her time in Iceland where she went to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal hot spring.

In Prince Rupert, she participates in the Sons of Norway, an organization in North America for people with Norwegian heritage. She said the group takes part of the Kaien Island Craft Fair in November, and the annual multicultural festival.

Then every November, the women in her family gather in her mother’s kitchen to bake traditional Norwegian dishes, such as fish cakes, lefse and krumkake (curved cake).

“I just recently learned how to make julekake. It’s kind of like a fruit bread,” she said.

Although Seidemann may face daily challenges others may never understand, her disability doesn’t deter her from sharing her energy across networks within the community.

Her competing interests — as an active member of the Lutheran Church, a quilter, an assistant prop manager, a world traveller, a dog walker, a dedicated volunteer — are what make Seidemann’s life much like one of her quilted mosaics, only this is one that she continues to stitch each and every year.