In 1995, when Karen Loucks read an article that mentioned how a “blankie” helped comfort a 3-year-old during chemotherapy for leukemia, she decided to donate some homemade blankets to a cancer center in Denver.
It was the beginning of Project Linus, an organization that has since grown to include an estimated 80,000 volunteers and has chapters in each state. Through its expansion, the original mission has stayed exactly the same: to provide quality handmade “security” blankets to children battling illness or trauma. According to Project Linus’s current president, Patty Gregory, they’ve given away more than 7.8 million blankets, and their annual total falls somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000.
Gregory’s involvement with the project began in 2000, when she happened to see Project Linus featured on television. Having just lost her 6-year-old niece to brain cancer, the idea of providing something safe and comfortable to children who were suffering really resonated with her, and she was soon working as the coordinator of the group's Kansas City chapter. In August 2016, Gregory was named president/CEO of Project Linus.
“These blankets provide a sense of security for children who are ill and traumatized,” Gregory tells Mental Floss. “It gives them something to hold on to, to hug.”
The blankets, many of which feature animals, whimsical patterns, and vibrant colors, also help break up the often monochromatic, clinical monotony of healthcare institutions.
Every blanket is knitted, sewn, or otherwise handmade by a volunteer “blanketeer,” and Project Linus is committed to ensuring that each one is in top-notch condition before delivering it to a hospital or shelter to be given to a child. Blankets must be new, washable, and completely free of contaminants like pet hair or cigarette smoke.
As long as you adhere to those quality standards and approach each blanket-making endeavor with care and kindness, you have almost everything you need to become a blanketeer yourself—no experience necessary.
“Anyone can make a blanket,” Gregory says. Project Linus’s website also includes an extensive list of suggested patterns from blogs, other sites, and individuals, ranging from “Lili’s Hug,” a weighted blanket pattern suited for children with sensory processing difficulties, to “Bulky Baby Blanket,” a “thick, squishy knit blanket to keep babies cozy in cold weather.”
If you’d like to practice a little before entering the ranks of blanketeers, or just don’t have time to commit to crafting, there are a couple other ways that you can support Project Linus, especially as they approach their busy holiday season.
You could make a monetary donation by mail or online here. In addition to needing funds for printing, shipping, and accounting, they also use donations to purchase blanket-making supplies. Or you could actually donate some of those supplies, like yarn, fabric, and cotton batting—just make sure to check with your chapter coordinator first to see what they might need.
You can find the nearest chapter or a blanket drop-off site here.