The pillows were red and pink and purple and stuffed not only with cotton but with dreams.
"I just want to go to Thailand," said Kaitlin Darland, 6. "I'd just like to see what's around there."
"When I grow up, I want to be a vet on safari," said 7-year-old Brittany Baird. Sam Scott, 6, wants to be a singer.
The dream pillows carefully stitched by the eight girls taking part in a day camp at the Beaumont YMCA last week were part of a weeklong lesson in empowerment.
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The Camp is called Ramona and Beezus with Girls Empowered. The name borrows from the 2010 movie Ramona and Beezus.
The hand-colored papers inside showed their dreams, but the classes emphasized the way to get there: by standing up for yourself and treating others with respect. Kimber Yanke-Bishop, who created and teaches the course, encouraged the girls to open their pillows when they were 16 to see how their dreams have changed. But she hopes the lessons they take away from the class will become a part of their everyday lives.
For 12 years, Yanke-Bishop has taught a message about empowerment and bullying that she says goes against the grain of what most parents think.
For example, she said, most parents tell a child that if they encounter a bully themselves or see someone else being bullied to ignore the bully or kill the bully with kindness.
"That's the wrong message," said Yanke-Bishop, who grew up in Lexington and went to Lafayette High School, as she put the finishing touches on one of the girls' pillows last week. The program she created, which her Web site said has been taught to more than 65,000 kids, teaches kids how to talk their way through bullying situations and not simply look the other way.
"We want to show them how to work through things," she said, adding that she has learned a lot from the girls and boys who she has taught over the years.
"It's a completely different way of thinking," she said.
Last week's camp featured lots of arts projects and exercise opportunities, and the girls learned a song about the importance of taking care of their bodies, minds and spirits. The same day that they made the dream pillows, they also created glitter-covered fortune cookies for a lesson about the importance of gratitude.
The lesson hit home with Sam, who said if she had three wishes, she would use them all to help other people, say people in Africa who don't have enough to eat.
Although Yanke-Bishop emphasized to the girls that part of being the best person you can be is to help others, she also told Sam it was OK to take a wish for yourself.
Yanke-Bishop offers the courses that are part of her small business, Girls Empowered, out of Detroit, her hometown, and Lexington, where she still has family. She is offering camps through the end of July at the Beaumont YMCA and is planning to have training sessions for parents and professionals who work with kids during the fall. The Beaumont camps are single-sex groups for boys and girls, and one class for both boys and girls.
The cost is $130 for YMCA members and $150 for non-members.
She said recent high-profile cases of bullying-related suicides have raised the issue of how children should be prepared to stand up for themselves. Boys, especially sensitive ones, can suffer from taunts and feel compelled to go along with he crowd just to fit in. "We are losing a lot of nice boys," she said.
And, she said, parents are looking for how to help them.
"They want to do the right thing," she said.