By Debbie Adams
“While everyone is asking how you’re spending your time during the Covid-19 stay at home orders, two William Byrd high school girls have been making blankest for Project Linus,” said Gina Pierce. “It started out as a school project with the girls getting together on the weekends to make a few at a time, but the project was canceled after the shutdown. However, that didn’t stop them.”
“Latriva Pierce and Holly Mills decided to keep making blankets,” said Pierce, (Latriva’s mother). “It was a way to pass the time in their own homes while doing social distancing, and also giving back to the community. Then, once the restrictions were lifted, they got together to get a picture of the 20 blankets they made to be sent to the hospitals and shelters for sick and abused children.”
Project Linus got its start on Christmas Eve in 1995 when founder Karen Loucks read an article entitled “Joy to the World” in the “Parade Magazine.” It was written by Pulitizer Prize winning photojournalist Eddie Adams, and featured a child named Laura, who had been diagnosed with leukemia two years earlier.
According to the Project Linus website, “A special ‘blankie helped Laura, get through more than two years of intensive chemotherapy.” She took it along to the hospital with her whenever she went for treatment. When she was first diagnosed, 97 percent of her bone marrow contained cancerous cells. Although chemotherapy helped eradicate the cancer, she had to endure nausea, high fevers and the loss of her hair. An allergic reaction at one point caused her to lose vital signs.
After reading the article on Laura, Loucks decided to provide homemade security blankets to Denver’s Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Center, and Project Linus was born.
Project Linus National Headquarters is located in Belton, Missouri with chapters across the United States in all 50 states, including a chapter in Roanoke.
Blankets are collected locally and distributed to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies, or anywhere that a child might be in need of a big hug. Approximately 7.8 million blankets have been delivered by Project Linus since 1995.
The Project Linus mission is to first “provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer ‘blanketeers’.” Another goal is to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.
Latriva Pierce received a blanket from Project Linus when she was in the hospital at age seven and has made blankets for them from time to time. This spring’s 20 blankets are the most she has made–with the help of her friend, Holly.
William Byrd Science instructor Chris Rupe gave his students the choice of doing a science project or a community service project this year. Pierce chose to complete the blanket project.
Pierce and Mills made their blankets by putting two pieces of colorful fabric together and tying them in.
“Our volunteers, known as “blanketeers,” provide new, handmade, washable blankets to be given as gifts to seriously ill and traumatized children, ages 0-18,” said Project Linus. “It is Project Linus’ policy to accept blankets of all sizes, depending on local chapter needs. All blanket styles are welcome, including quilts, tied comforters, fleece blankets, crocheted or knitted afghans, and receiving blankets in child-friendly colors. Blankets must be homemade, washable, free of pins, and come from smoke-free environments due to allergy reasons.”
Pierce says in the past, they have delivered the blankets to the Joann Fabric store, which is a drop-off center. She is checking with the local store to see if that is still available. Some blankets go to shelters and some go to hospitals.
For more information about Project Linus go to https://www.projectlinus.org/about/ .