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Blanketing the world with love one stitch at a time

by Virginia Mullery

Everyone is familiar with Linus of "Peanuts" fame and his ever-present blanket. Many of us have had children who clung to their "blankies" till the last shred was gone. Recognizing the universal appeal of this comfort, the ladies of Project Linus are making sure that every sick and hurting child will have their own blanket.

<em>Project Linus</em> It all started in 1995, when Karen Louchs of Denver, CO, read an article in Parade magazine about a child whose blanket helped her get through chemotherapy treatments. As a result, Louchs decided to make blankets for the Rocky Mountain Children's Cancer Center in Denver. Other women joined her efforts and they soon organized under the name Project Linus with the approval of Charles Schultz, creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. Today, there are 400 chapters nationwide.

North and Central Chicagoland Chapter, including Cook and Lake counties, was one of the first, organizing in 1996. They have donated some 78,000 blankets to area hospitals, homes for children, fire and police departments and families where there are bereavement issues. Some went to Katrina hurricane survivors and others have been given to children of fallen soldiers. The age range of recipients is from newborn to 18 years.

If there's any question about the value of giving blankets to teenagers, consider this story, related by Judi Goldman of Northbrook, Chicagoland co-coordinator. Students who met with social workers after the tragedy at Columbine seemed withdrawn and didn't talk much until a member of the Littleton, CO, chapter brought a load of blankets to the social workers' offices. Every kid who came in picked up a blanket and put it around their shoulders and wore it around school for weeks. "No matter how old they are, they need comfort and security," Goldman said.

Linda Neuman of Northbrook, her co-coordinator, said that several years ago, the University of Chicago Hospital did not want to accept blankets for extremely ill children because they weren't sterile. Doctors who saw the intrinsic value of the blanket to the child intervened and arrangements were made to have them steamed and thereby sterilized. "They perk up a hospital room and make a child feel more human," Neuman said. "They are warm and cuddly."

Blankets must be at least 36 x 36-inches, washable and cannot be made of wool. Otherwise, they are knitted, crocheted, fleece or quilted. Most are made by people at home but every other month a group of members gathers at the Northbrook United Methodist Church for blanket making, conversation and lunch. "It's like an old-fashioned quilting bee," Neuman said. "These people are so generous; it's a privilege to work with them." More than 1,000 people in this chapter contribute, some one blanket a year, others 500. There is a group in Sun City, Huntley, Neuman said, who have contributed 6,000 blankets.

<em>Project Linus</em> partners
Judi Goldman and Linda Neuman met through their work with Project Linus.
Harry Porterfield reporting on <em>Project Linus</em>
Harry Porterfield recently visited with the Project Linus "blaketeers" to film a sequence for "Someone You Should Know."


Every blanket is important, Newman said, relating this story. Children in the hospital are allowed to pick the blanket they want from an array of beautiful offerings. One little boy chose the least attractive one, with garish colors and odd designs that had been passed over by the other children. When he was asked why he chose that one, he replied, "It reminds me of my grandpa's argyle socks."

Neuman, a quilter, and Goldman, a knitter, both of whom were stay-at-home moms, are now grandmothers. They do not currently make blankets because their administrative duties are so time-consuming. Their efforts, like those of everyone else involved with Project Linus, are volunteer, said Neuman, who has made it her life work. In addition to arranging pickups at a number of area sites, they must tag and package blankets, 10 to a bag, and schedule deliveries to some 80 locations. They maintain a mailing list of 800 volunteers, put out a newsletter, handle cash donations, produce videos and manage a website.

Volunteers range in age from five years to women in their 90s. It is largely a women's effort, although there have been a few male contributors from time to time. The children participate in Kids Helping Kids, managed by Goldman. Through Girl Scout troops and other organizations youngsters make squares for quilts. Goldman said, "This work (Project Linus) is fulfilling on so many levels. There are people in our lives who we would not have known otherwise. And, each blanket adds so much to my life. The more you give, it comes back tenfold."

Neuman said, she got involved initially because, as a mother, it felt good to help children who are suffering. "And, it is so heartwarming to work with delightfully kind people. Judi and I met through this."

"Linda and I have the perfect partnership," Goldman added. One of their heartwarming stories of the journey of a blanket is about two year- old Mitchell, who had been in intensive care most of his young life. There were no visible parents, only a grandmother, and he was in foster care. One day, his grandmother asked the nurses to take his picture with his beloved blanket. The next day, he died and that remains—the only picture that was ever taken of Mitchell.

For more information, call Goldman at 847-498-3987; e-mail Neuman at linuschicago@all.com; or projectlinuschicago.webs.com.

Virginia Mullery is a freelance writer living in Gurnee, IL.


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