Elon Park students make blankets to comfort Ronald McDonald House children
by Morgan Smith
Fifth-grader Marlena Fioretti understands what a blanket or lucky trinket can do for the spirit of a sick child. She has her own special jewelry box that has comforted her through all kinds of bad days.
It was with that in mind that Marlena found herself delivering blankets for sick kids this weekend in Charlotte.
“The box says my name on it and … it meant a lot to me. When I looked inside it, I had all my friendship bracelets in there that helped cheer me up,” Marlena said. “The blankets are meant to (be) an extra hug for them – it was kind of the same deal with the jewelry box.”
Marlena said her box was so special because family members gave it to her. “I just feel lucky that people thought of me.”
Marlena and her classmates at Elon Park Elementary recently made 80 fleece blankets for Project Linus, an organization that strives to provide security for children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through blankets. Based off of Charles Schulz’s Linus character from the Peanuts comic strip, the program has nearly 400 chapter coordinators who collect from thousands of “blanketeers,” or volunteer blanket makers, across the United States.
More than 150 students at Elon Park were part of the first partnership between Project Linus and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Charlotte. The Ronald McDonald House provides out-of-town families a place to stay while their kids go through treatments or are hospitalized in Charlotte, serving as a home away from home. Several students, teachers and their parents visited the house Saturday, May 19, to deliver the blankets and meet some of the kids staying at the house.
Although students who visited the house last Saturday weren’t able to actually hand-deliver blankets to the kids, parents and teachers alike said they were happy their students were able to experience such a wonderful organization and gift.
“Since the school has opened, we’ve always given back to the community,” Becky Grgurina, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, said, adding they’ve done other service projects for organizations such as Crisis Assistance, A Child’s Place and local food banks.
“In the past, we’ve packed lunches, backpacks,” but students have never seen the outcome of their work first-hand. “Having some of (the students) come to the house and see where the blankets are going, it’s such a bigger impact,” Patty Daddona, fifth-grade teacher, added.
The teachers both said they hope their students participate in the program in the future adding that the students, both boys and girls, took the project very seriously.
To make the blankets, students were provided with two pre-cut pieces of fleece. They partnered up, picked out their fabric, measured and cut slits around the edges and tied knots to connect the fabric.
Marlena and her partner made a football blanket.
“Even though it was for a little boy, it was still fun,” she said. “I hope it makes him know that people are thinking about him.”
Meghan Rawlings, an Elon Park parent and coordinator of the service project, said she encouraged the project because the students were able to see it through to the end.
“I wanted them to find a need, fill the need, and to see it fulfill wishes,” Rawlings said, “to know they can really make a difference in the world, in small blanket ways, or just something… there are ways to help, and that the kids are able to do it.”
“Kids are such concrete thinkers,” she added. With Project Linus, students could relate to having blankets or toys for comfort. “They know the importance of what we are doing.”
Mary Crew, the Charlotte-area chapter coordinator for Project Linus, said she loved the idea of students producing the blankets. Besides Ardrey Kell High, this was one of the first times the chapter worked with a south Charlotte school. She said she hopes it’s a partnership that continues to grow.
Find more information on the program at www.projectlinus.org.