Powerful Support from Power10 Pillows

Michael Whamond surrounded by Power10 Pillows

August 4, 2023 By Holly Moriarty

Popping up in homes across Hingham are custom, handmade Power10 Pillows created by Mary Courtney (MC) and Michael Whamond, who generously donate all profits from the pillows to the Hingham High School Crew team.

It all started in early 2020, when MC convinced her husband Michael to take a punch needling class with her.

“She told me, ‘You work and you work out, you need a hobby.’ So we took the class together. MC was a disaster, I was the prized pupil,” said Michael, while MC laughed in full agreement. “Then Covid hit, and it was the perfect Covid pastime.”

Punch needling is similar to needlepointing, but with bigger needles and thicker yarn. MC is an avid knitter, and growing up, Michael enjoyed drawing and art classes—punch needling perfectly combined their skills. To make the pillows, Michael first draws the design for the front of the pillow and then uses yarn and punch needles to fill it in. For the final step, MC sews the fabric on the back of the pillow. According to Michael, “MC’s the closer.”

They create the pillows in their free time between their day jobs—Michael works as an attorney in the investment office at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and MC substitute teaches in town, most often at their kids’ alma mater, Plymouth River School.

Over time, they honed their punch needle skills, gifting the pillows to family and friends.

“I got to the point where I couldn’t give them away anymore,” said Michael. “I was going to make one for my brother in the design of his English football club, West Ham, and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ But I wanted to keep making them because I enjoyed the creative release.”

They decided to carry on and sell the pillows as a fundraiser for the Hingham High School Crew team.

Michael and MC typically spend eight to 10 hours to complete a simple 12” x 12” pillow and up to 30 hours for a more complex 18” x 18” pillow. Depending on the intricacy of the design and start-to-finish time, the price tag ranges between $110-$300.

“The money has to go to a good cause to justify the price of the pillows,” said Michael. “I couldn’t think of a better group than the Hingham High School Crew team. It’s such a wonderful community—all getting up at zero dark 30 on weekends for regattas.”

At the time they started punch needling, both of their children, Patch (HHS ’19) and Jack (HHS ’20), rowed for the HHS Crew team. Inspired by their grandfather, Donald Whamond, who was a founding member of Georgetown University’s rowing program in the 1950s (where Michael and MC met a few decades later), Patch and Jack both learned to row in middle school at Hingham Maritime Center.

The Hingham High School Rowing Association (HHSRA), a nonprofit organization that oversees HHS Crew, is operated entirely by parents of athletes on the team. MC and Michael volunteered many hours to support the team. MC ran the team’s seasonal registration, but was especially famous among the athletes for the chicken wraps she grilled up at regattas under the hospitality tent.

“Having the hospitality tent brings everyone together. We’re a big family under the tent,” said MC. “Just because our kids graduated, we didn’t want to leave the family.”

The Power10 Pillows moniker was inspired by the “Power 10” coxswain call for a burst of ten powerful strokes from the rowers. While Michael can create any design for the pillows, popular ones include Hingham themes, college logos, cartoon characters, and symbols. The pillows are often given as holiday, graduation, or baby gifts. One of the more complicated pillows they created was a Scottish family crest for Michael’s father.

“If I can draw it, I can make it. Punch needling is basically drawing with yarn,” said Michael.

Eighty pillows later, the Whamonds have gifted more than $8,000 of new equipment to the HHS Crew team. After expenses, they donate all of Power10’s proceeds to HHSRA.

“It’s all about supporting the crew team,” said MC. “We love the coaches. It’s a great sport, and we want to help keep the team going.”

Fittingly, one of their first donations to HHS Crew was a new hospitality tent. Last year they also contributed towards the purchase of three new 8+ boats. Donors were given a “foot” of a boat to mark with signage of their choice. The Whamonds opted to pay tribute to the head coaches at the time, John O’Neill and Marika Kopp, by adding their names to the rowing shells, and dedicated another foot to Michael’s father with his nickname, “The Boss.”

This summer, Michael and MC reached out to the HHS Crew coaches to see what they needed next—oars. Most of the teams’ oars are well past their prime in years and scraped up from wet launching off the rocky shore in Bare Cove Park. A new set of eight oars, at a cost of $3,700, will arrive in time for the fall season, thanks to the continued generosity of the Whamond family and their Power10 Pillows.

HHSRA is currently running a fundraiser to buy an additional eight oars, so that both the girls and boys teams have a new set for fall and welcomes any donations via Venmo @HinghamHighSchool-Rowing or check to HHSRA, PO Box 453, Hingham, MA 02043.

Pictures of Power10 Pillows can be seen on the Whamonds’ Instagram page @whamond33. Most of their pillow orders are custom requests; customers can message the Whamonds with design ideas. MC and Michael will sell Power10 Pillows in person at Hingham High School  Homecoming this fall and at the Holiday Fair in December.

Beyond Power10 Pillows, rowing still runs strong in the Whamond family. Michael participated in the HHS Crew Ergathon fundraiser last winter, rowing 15,695 meters (15K) in an hour.

Jack (left) and Michael (right) competing in a 5K at the 2019 HHS Crew Ergathon with MC cheering on (behind Michael)

Their son Jack now rows for St. Lawrence University, this year winning both the Liberty League Championship and New York State Championship, in addition to qualifying for DIII Nationals. With so many HHS Crew alumni rowing and coxing at the collegiate level, MC and Michael often run into Hingham families at Jack’s regattas.

Jack Whamond rowing for HHS Crew in the 2019 New Hampshire Championships


Jack rowing for St. Lawrence University in the Liberty League Championships last spring

“To see so many kids continuing on with rowing in college,” said MC, “the HHS Crew team is doing something right.”

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