Our mission at AZ Blankets 4 Kids is to provide cuddle sized blankets to seriously ill and traumatized children in our area. One of our recipient agencies supports our mission in an unexpected way, by helping kids grieve the loss of a loved one. They are part of the Banner Hospice network, and they sponsor bereavement camps held just outside of Payson, AZ. The following story was shared by a Banner Bereavement Camp volunteer. She wanted our volunteers to know what their efforts could mean to a child. We’re so grateful to Brenda, for sharing this perspective of the blankets finding their children.
Last camp was a wonderful reminder that we don’t always know or see the impact of our work or actions. So many beautiful quilts arrive each camp for the kids, and the crafters don’t get to see their amazement and delight of the kids. Kids’ receiving a blanket is an important part of the ritual in our Friday evening welcoming circle.
The blankets are already laid out in the center of the circle when the circle commences. Everyone is eyeing them and choosing their favorite, making comments about them as a whole. Once the kids know they will receive a blanket they choose theirs. Some move to the edge of their seat so they can move quickly race to the blanket of their choice. Luckily, everyone generally gets their first choice.
Last camp the youth were an older group of kids, but the process and excitement was the same. The excitement, anticipation and race to their blanket were the same. I was surprised and delighted that I saw these bigger kids hug and appreciate their blankets.
One young man, the oldest of the group, punctuated the appreciation and impact that the blankets hold for those receiving them. He asked at the end of the circle time, “Do we get to keep these?” Upon hearing yes, he pulled his blanket to his chest, hugged and held it close. A number of the camp leaders noticed his actions and commented later on the endearing moment.
The same young man brought his blanket to every circle gathering. He arrived with his blanket in the youth circle on Saturday. The other kids in the circle returned to their rooms to get their blanket. It was so touching to see the group of mostly teenagers wrapped in the comfort of their blankets. One guy wrapped himself up like a burrito and lay on the floor with such a sense of serenity. Another guy was feeling sick and just wrapped himself up, very cozy and protected.
Throughout the weekend, I thought the makers of these blankets will never get to see the impact their work has on the kids. The way the blankets become a cherished item upon selection. I think of the blankets as medicine blankets. Tied to the memory of their loved one, healing, care and transformation. The big linebacker of a guy that hugged his blanket was feeling loss on so many levels. He was experiencing loss of his loved one. He was feeling lost as he transitioned to adulthood. Sadly, he has also contemplated suicide. Yet, some part of him that is still alive and yearning found tremendous value in his blanket. He felt safe enough to use his gift openly and freely throughout the weekend. Maybe that blanket became a stitch in time.