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March 5, 2008 > Making a difference through blankets

Making a difference through blankets

By Sargunjot Kaur
Photos By courtesy of Alice Reiley

Warm the hearts of many misfortunate children through Project Linus. As a non-profit organization, the Project Linus crew needles comfort and a sense of security into a lovingly crafted blanket for seriously ill, neglected, and abused children. Many times the hospital is not the happiest place to be, the love and warmth of home always seems to be missing. A homemade blanket doesn't work the magic of the doctors or undo the abuse, but it certainly contains the power of a lovingly warm hug to those in desperate need of it. From a small project started over a decade ago by Karen Loucks at Denver's Rocky Mountain Children's Cancer Center, located in Colorado, in response to an article in Parade Magazine about a young girl going through intensive chemotherapy with the help of her security blanket, Project Linus now has over 406 chapters in all 50 states. Over two million blankets have since then been supplied to traumatized children all over the world!

The East Bay chapter of Project Linus has gained big momentum since its initiation in November 2006. "In the past I used to take the quilts I made down to the Project Linus Chapter in San Jose. After two years, the coordinator there convinced me to open a chapter in this area, and so I applied at the National Headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois and opened a new chapter here," said Alice Reiley, the San Francisco/East Bay Chapter area coordinator. The mission of the organization is to provide warmth and a sense of security to children in need of a big hug through beautifully handcrafted gifts of new blankets and afghans. Currently, the East Bay Chapter of blanket makers have provided over 667 lovingly created blankets to needing children in the area.

"I take the blankets to several hospitals and shelters. Monthly I take blankets to the Children's Hospital in Oakland, SAVE in Fremont, Alameda County Assessment Center in Hayward, and other places depending on my supply," said Reiley. Originally, Project Linus' blankets went to warm the hearts of the pediatric cancer patients, but now there are a wide range of recipients, including children, from newborn to 19 years of age, who are seriously ill or traumatized in any way, including those who have lost a loved one in Iraq.

Project Linus reaches out not only to millions of children worldwide, but provides a meaningful and enjoyable service opportunity for individuals and groups in the community who are interested in lending a hand to children going through a hard time. "After I retired, I was looking for something to do, and there is nothing more worthwhile than providing help for sick children," said Reiley. The monthly Blanket Days are filled with working hands, busy crocheting and sewing at the Unity Church of Fremont in Newark. The "blanketeers" get an opportunity to show off their month's work of talent and work in a show and tell experience. New volunteers are always needed for their service. "Experience is not necessary. We can help teach those who want to learn how to sew or they can help by cutting squares as well," added Reiley.

Project Linus has ongoing fundraisers in the community to help provide for the cost of fabric, yarn, and office supplies needed for each blanket. "We have the SHARES program with Lucky's and Food Max, where a percent of your purchase goes to our organization," said Reiley. To become a part of the group, the East Bay Chapter can be contacted for a special card. Donations of other blanket material, including batting, fleece and gift certificates to Michael's, Walmart, Joanne's, and other quilt stores are appreciated by the organization.

"The people are so loving and generous, and word travels fast so we have an outpouring of support," said Reiley. There is certainly a different sensation that comes to heart, when far away a wounded child is receiving a gift stowed in a bundle of warmth and made with loving hands.

The Project Linus East Bay Chapter will be holding another Blanket Day on Tuesday, March 11, from 10 - 11:30 a.m. at the Unity Church o Fremont in Newark. All are welcome to attend. The event is free, but bringing a snack to share, some yarn, a sewing machine, or simply a willingness to help is recommended.

For more information, call (510) 797-5234 or visit http://www.sf-eastbaylinus.org.


Next Blanket Day Meeting:
Tuesday, March 11
10 - 11:30 a.m.
Unity Church of Fremont
47478 Cedar Blvd., Newark.
(510) 797-5234

Drop off Blanket Site:
5009 Northampton Ct., Newark
(510) 792-9990

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