For Project Linus quilters, the kids' smiles are thanks enough
They call themselves ”blanketeers.”
They are the group that volunteers countless hours sewing blankets for Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need. Project Linus is headquartered in Belton, MO. and has a location here in Caste Village, Whitehall Borough.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Lois Misko, Pittsburgh chapter coordinator. “The kids receive blankets, and the volunteers feel so good about seeing the smiles on the faces of the children and their siblings as well as mom and dad. It’s amazing to see the care among perfect strangers between the volunteers and the children.”
That interaction was evident on Aug. 9 at Rodef Shalom Congregation on the border of Oakland and Shadyside where the blanket makers greeted children and let the youngsters who have undergone or are about to have surgery for a liver or intestine transplant to take with them to Camp Chihopi.
Why they do it
The “blanketeers” said they enjoy making the blankets and knowing they will comfort the person who holds them.
“It helps us do something for someone else and it keeps us off the streets,” said Leanne Zotter, who along with Fran Brannan, Sue Baxter and Linda Peffer was distributing the blankets at Rodef Shalom.
Last year, the local Project Linus group distributed 16,000 blankets in the tri-state area.
At this event, blankets were made with love from members from the local Project Linus office and Three Rivers Quilters as well as parishioners at Fort Palmer Church in Ligonier, Baldwin Community United Methodist Church, and Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Muse.
“It does make you feel good to know you are helping a child,” said Wendy Engel coordinator of Helping Angels Quilters at Holy Rosary. She and her team of 18 made 80 quilts for these campers.
“We like making them,” Engel said. “We have all skill levels here and are all good at helping and teaching and learning from each other, but we need more people to help us because we can’t do this forever. Everyone is welcome. All we are asking for is your time.”
Doing this is about “paying it forward,” said Engel.
“How can you say no to these children?” It makes me feel good to help these kids, and it keeps us busy. I believe the brighter the colors the better.”
The hues she chose included cherry reds and bold yellows and standout blues which complemented the Dr. Seuss theme for this year’s camp. They started making them in May.
“We like getting together,” Engel said. “We talk and laugh, and the time goes quickly.
Some of the members at Holy Rosary also belong to other quilting groups and they all donate their time as well as some money when necessary to get some fabric or other materials they might need. Most have their own sewing machines.
“I really enjoy doing it,” said Hedy Burns. “Thinking of all the enjoyment the kids will get from these blankets from keeping them warm to making them smile when they see Dr. Seuss.”
It is important to us to do something for these children said Jeffrey Stickel, who has some medical issues and empathizes with these children. “I wanted to do something to help someone, and this was a perfect fit. It is important to do good for others. I love kids, and this is such a good cause.”
You don’t realize how many children have transplants or are in need of a transplant until you become a part of this, said Annie Puchany.
Belonging to Helping Angels Quilters makes you feel good, said Jan Dumont.
“It is fun and we’ve become good friends, often doing things outside of making blankets and quilts,” said Dumont. “A lot of times we spend more time talking than working, so it takes us a little longer, but we don’t mind. It’s more time to spend together.”
“Oh! the Places You’ll Go!”
This title from the well known Dr. Seuss book was the theme for a send off of this pretty cool children’s camp, where youngsters who have undergone or are about to have surgery for a liver or intestine transplant spend four days not having to think about hospitals and medicine and giving blood.
The adventure ran through Aug. 12 and took them above the trees on a zip line, through the water on inner tubes as well as they go to experience other outdoor activities like other kids.
Before they left for camp, they said good-bye to mom and dad and any siblings and then walked through an entryway decorated with the words from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” and then got on the bus for the ride to Camp Chihopi.
About the camp
This was the 24th year for the camp which is a summer experience for children ages 7-15 who have or will receive liver and/or intestine transplants. Campers enjoyed the surrounds of the Emma Kaufmann Camp, located 90 miles south of Pittsburgh, near Morgantown, W.Va.
The area is surrounded by more than 200 acres of trees and mountains and has a private cove and beach on Cheat Lake.
It provides a non-medical environment where campers can increase self-esteem and interact with children who have similar medical backgrounds.
The aquatics center offers a water play area, complete with a swimming pool and shallow end, perfect for volleyball. There are two water slides.
During the weekend, there was an annual party for all campers and staff on Aug. 11th. The Dr. Seuss theme had attendees bring red-and-white striped hats and socks as well as some blue wigs for “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” or some dressed as 1 fish, 2 fish, red fish, or blue fish.
Each child carried his or her blanket from Project Linus for comfort during the four-day camp.
“The volunteers who make these blankets embrace the concept of the camp,” says Beverly Kosmach-Park, camp director and clinical nurse specialist in the department of transplant surgery at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “They make sure the material matches the theme, and then they also recognize that the siblings should have a blanket too so they make extra for those children. It’s a special partnership we have with Project Linus.”
A positive response
Families gathered inside Rodef Shalom where there was a brunch for them. Moms and dads and their children made their way through the line for the kids to choose their blanket from a table full of them.
“They are gorgeous, blankets,” said Michelle Klingman of Mifflinburg in Central Pa. with her sons, Daniel and Connor and husband Derek. “These are the bravest kids I know.”
This will be the second year for camp for Daniel Klingman, who had a liver transplant Sept. 20, 2010.
“I like everything about going to camp,” says Daniel, 8. “I really like zip-lining and tubing. I am very excited.”
Ashley Knight and her husband Justin Glodowski with their children Jasmine, 9, Mariah, 7 and Isaiah, 2 from Parkersburg W.Va. said their good-byes to Mariah as she walked down the hallway to the bus. She is awaiting an intestine transplant.
She was in the hospital last week, and they were grateful she would be out for camp, and she was.
“This is so hard,” said Ashley Knight, with tears in her eyes. “We will miss her. This is such a wonderful camp and Project Linus is amazing for donating all of these blankets.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or email@example.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.