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Made With Love By Volunteers – for Sep. 16, 2010

What does a baby fighting for his life because he was born too early, a preschooler who has just lost all of her toys in a house fire, a teenager whose family has just been in a car accident, or every child from seven to 17 who attend a camp for bereaved children all have in common? They all need a hug, and they just may have received one in the form of a cosy, “yours to keep” blanket made by the Blanketeers of Project Linus.

Project Linus got its start on Christmas Eve, 1995, when an article appeared inParade Magazineabout a girl receiving chemotherapy who said that her security blanket helped her get through the treatments. Karen Loucks- Baker read this, and decided to provide homemade blankets to Denver’s Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Centre. Project Linus was born.

By 2006 there were over 450 chapters throughout the world. Manitoba formed a chapter in Stonewall in October 2006, a second chapter in the Lorette, Man. area and its third chapter started in Brandon in May, 2010.

The name for Project Linus came from the blanket-carrying character Linus, in the comic strip “Peanuts.” Creator, Charles Shultz was aware of the effort, and was delighted to have Linus inspire blanket makers to help comfort children in need. Copyright wouldn’t allow the use of Linus anywhere but on the blanket label, so “Lucky” was a character drawn by a Stonewall artist, to be Linus’s friend and the Manitoba mascot.

Project Linus is a 100 per cent volunteer, non-profit, registered Canadian charity, with head office in Toronto. Its mission is to provide a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need of a hug, through the gifts of new, handmade, washable blankets, quilts and afghans, lovingly crafted by volunteer Blanketeers.

Blanketeers provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities for the benefit of children. They provide all styles of blankets – quilts, tied comforters, fleece blankets, crocheted or knitted afghans, and receiving blankets – in a variety of sizes. The materials must be new, bright and colourful, and prints need to be “age appropriate.” When the blankets are received, a Project Linus label is sewn on, they are washed in non-perfumed detergent, categorized, and packaged into individual plastic bags for sanitation purposes. A small teddy bear is added for the baby to youth-age blankets. Then, they are distributed to ambulances, police, fire departments, shelters or any institution that may need them, as well as individuals and families going through a crisis.

Many of the Blanketeers have a story to tell – the 90-year-old lady who provides a seemingly endless supply of hand-quilted blankets, the retiree who felt thatheneeded a hobby, so took up crocheting afghans, the woman who crocheted on long road trips while her husband drove, and the quilter with tons of material who has finally found a purpose for it.

Project Linus is always looking for people who have time to become a Blanketeer, have a stash of fabrics/notions/ yarn that they wish to donate, have time to help organize, sort, label blankets, or are able to donate a tax deductible monetary gift.

All blankets that are made in Manitoba, stay in Manitoba, and any financial donations support our Manitoba chapters.

The main focus of Project Linus is to enter into partnerships anywhere that children may need a sense of security. The healing power of a blanket, made with love, filled with hugs and given to children by a volunteer group of strangers, asking for nothing in return, is huge. Huge enough to help children work with their loss, to help give them the strength to pick up the pieces of their lives, and move into what lies ahead.

For more information contact:

Gayleen Nixon, Manitoba Chapter co-ordinator, 204-467-8120, [email protected]

Janice Kostash, Southeast regional co-ordinator, 204-782-4145, [email protected]

Judi Janzen, Westman regional co-ordinator, 204-725-1577, [email protected]

– Yvonne Smith writes from Forrest, Manitoba

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