When Sarah Margaret Page’s twin daughters, Luna and Eden, were born six weeks early and ended up in UNC Rex Healthcare’s special care nursery last year, two handmade blankets were sent home with them.
The blankets were the work of volunteers with the Raleigh chapter of Project Linus, a charity that provides a piece of comfort in fabric form to critically ill children. 2016 marks 20 years for the Wake County chapter, which has distributed tens of thousands of blankets throughout the community.
The volunteers’ handiwork is much appreciated, at least based on the reaction of Page’s twin daughters. “I have to sneak to put (the blankets) in the washing machine because if I put them in there and they see them, we have a meltdown,” said Page, 30, of Raleigh.
Today, the twins are thriving with no developmental delays. When asked why her daughters are so attached to their blankets, Page said she wonders “if they have that special bond with them because they were so tiny and so cuddled up with them since the beginning.”
Never miss a local story.
The Wake County chapter of Project Linus started in 1996, when coordinator Susie Holmes, 54, read about a Durham chapter in The News & Observer. Holmes got in touch wanting to help, and they suggested she start her own chapter in the Raleigh area. So she did. Tens of thousands of blankets have been created and donated to area organizations, all made by a small army of volunteers called blanketeers.
One such volunteer is Jenny Billings, 67, an especially prolific blanketeer who lives in North Raleigh. She crochets 10 blankets a month, which she has done for several decades. Each blanket takes about 35 hours.
“I just think it’s the greatest thing, being able to touch, not just the kid, you’re touching the whole family,” Billings said. “And I think about if they’re in the hospital at night, they’re by themselves a lot of times. They’ve got something that is theirs – something that’s soft and warm and it’s theirs.”
About the volunteers, Holmes, the Raleigh chapter coordinator, said, “I know all these blanket makers think the same way, like, ‘I want this child literally covered in love.’ ”
Not all donated blankets require that much time. All handmade blankets are welcome, as are blankets made from pieces of fleece, which can take as little as two hours. All blankets have to be washable, but can be varying sizes due to the range of children that they go to. Colorful, cheerful patterns go over well.
Deanna Winick, 46, is a chapter blanketeer who also helps with the fundraising and event planning. “I actually don’t have a lot of time to sew blankets, but I do the event coordination and the fundraising and the outreach,” Winnick said. “I go to schools and talk about Project Linus and teach them how to make fleece-tie blankets, so everybody helps out in their own way.”
While the Raleigh chapter meets once a year on National Make A Blanket Day, most of the blanketeers make their blankets individually and then drop them off at approved sites. The blankets are picked up by volunteers who sew a tag on them, noting the blanket is from Project Linus, and include a poem about what the maker was thinking during its creation. The blankets are then delivered to Holmes who distributes them to various hospitals and charitable organizations.
Once the blankets arrive at the local hospitals, they are delivered to pediatric patients. Sunisha Barbee, 37, a certified child life specialist at WakeMed, estimates that she has passed out thousands of blankets in the last seven years at the Raleigh hospital. Barbee said the blankets elicit big smiles from both patients and parents. Barbee said, “They think it’s really special ... especially when I mention it’s yours to take home, they’re like, ‘Really?’ ”
Want to help?
The next Make A Blanket Day is Feb.18. The Wake County chapter will meet from 2-6 p.m. at Temple Beth Or, 5315 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh.
Raleigh chapter website and drop-off sites: projectlinusraleigh.blogspot.com
Blanket guidelines: projectlinusraleigh.blogspot.com/p/blanket-guidelines.html
Reach Raleigh chapter coordinator Susie Holmes at 919-846-8564 or Susieholmes123@gmail.com
Other Triangle chapters include:
Chris Davidson, owner of Memories in Stitches in Dunn, is the organizer of the Harnett and Johnston counties chapter: 910-987-3276
Mary Ann Pogue is the organizer of the Orange, Durham and Chatham counties chapter: 919-650-2837. Info: nando.com/projectlinusdurham
More information on all North Carolina chapters: nando.com/projectlinuschapters