A blanket is a soft, comforting, tangible piece of security. When we’re kids, it keeps us warm, hides us from the dark corners of our room at night and acts as the cape on the makeshift superhero costume that lets our imagination soar.
For this very reason, when Courtney Andreone discovered in December 2009 that the Marion County foster child she was working with through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) organization (representing abused and neglected children) had nothing but ratty sheets on his bed, she felt compelled to do something. She made him a blanket for Christmas and launched an informal blanket project, making more blankets on her own and enlisting volunteers through personal contacts and word of mouth so that other foster kids in need could have blankets too.
Helene Wanker, a teacher at Riverside Junior High, heard about the blanket making project through her daughter, and thought her 7th graders might like to participate after finishing their curriculum-required hand-sewn pillows.
“It was a perfect project after studying child development and child care in class,” Wanker said, something the students did for four weeks during the semester-long Family and Consumer Science course Wanker teaches. Twenty-six of her students jumped at the opportunity to make fleece blankets to donate to Child Advocates, Inc., the Marion County CASA office, to be given to children in the system.
Student Hannah Kroehler said, “I just knew it would be a good idea for kids who don’t have much to have one.” Classmate Hannah Brungard said, “I wanted to participate because I have a blanket that my grandmother gave me. It’s warm and comforting and something you can always take with you.”
Participants selected their favorite colors and patterns from the fleece options Mrs. Wanker provided.
“I like the girlier colors like pink, blue and purple,” said fellow 7th grader Kayla Sutcliffe, who chose her blanket pallet specifically with a girl in mind. “I like the animal [prints] because it could go either way, for a boy or a girl,” Kroehler said.
Right now, the donated blankets are given to children on a first come, first served basis. “It saddened me that there’s no way every child could have a blanket,” Wanker said, and she was gratified by her students’ compassion in wanting to help those less fortunate than themselves. She has encouraged her students to consider making more blankets over the summer and intends to continue the blanket project with next year’s class.
Andreone has hopes of incorporating her blanket project as a nonprofit to raise the funds to make blankets every year. Until that happens, the fact that Wanker’s students have stepped up to be volunteers in making blankets for other children, who often have so little, is a godsend.
The students learned about the satisfaction involved in helping others. And the foster children? In addition to having their own blanket to keep as they grow, said student Morgan Murphy, who also made a blanket, “I think it means they know someone out there cares about them.”