Project Linus’s ‘Blanketeers’ Donate Homemade Blankets to Children in Need—Here’s How to Help

Project Linus
Project Linus

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.

5 Ways You Can Help the Jaguar Rescue Center Save Costa Rica’s Wildlife

A curious sloth says hello after members of the Jaguar Rescue Center reunited her with her baby.
A curious sloth says hello after members of the Jaguar Rescue Center reunited her with her baby.
Jaguar Rescue Center

In 2005, Catalonian primatologist Encar Garcia and her husband, Italian herpetologist Sandro Alviani, were living in southwestern Costa Rica when locals began to bring them injured animals in hopes that the two experts could save them. As word spread and more animals arrived, their property slowly transformed into a full-fledged rescue center. So they purchased the surrounding land and named their new organization the Jaguar Rescue Center (JRC), after one of their early rescues: a young, orphaned jaguar whose mother had been killed by farmers.

Today, the center covers nearly 5.5 acres of land near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica’s Limón province. It can accommodate around 160 animals at a time, and is home to everything from spider monkeys to sea turtles (though, by law, staff members aren’t allowed to accept domesticated animals like cats and dogs).

While locals still bring injured and orphaned animals to the JRC, others are brought by tourists, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the National Animal Health Service, and even the police, who confiscate animals that have been poached or illegally kept as pets.

howler monkey at jaguar rescue center
Skye, a young howler monkey who recovered from electrocution.
Jaguar Rescue Center

The rescues are often victims of road accidents, animal attacks, environmental destruction, human interaction, or electrocution from exposed power lines. After the animals are rehabilitated, they’re released into La Ceiba Natural Reserve, a human-free (except for JRC workers) part of the forest where they can safely reacclimate to living in the wild. The JRC has cameras installed in the area to monitor the animals after their release and make sure they’re finding enough food.

Unfortunately, not all the creatures brought to the JRC recover from their injuries—in 2019, for example, 311 of the 749 rescues died [PDF]—so JRC staff members and volunteers understand just how remarkable it is to watch an animal regain its health and be successfully returned to its natural environment.

“There are so many amazing things about working for the JRC, but I think we all can agree that seeing a rescued animal make it through rehabilitation and be released is the best and most rewarding part of the job,” Torey, a JRC tour guide, tells Mental Floss.

Some thought-to-be-orphaned sloths are even released right back into the arms of their mothers. After recording the cries of a baby sloth, JRC staff will take the sloth back to wherever it was first found, play the recording, and wait for the mother to recognize the cries and (slowly) climb down from her leafy abode to reunite with her child.

Despite its partnerships with government agencies, the JRC doesn’t receive government funding. Instead, it relies on public donations and revenue from its visitor services. Find out more about how you can help below.

1. Donate money.

You can make a one-time or monthly donation that will go toward food, medical care, and supplies for the animals, or you can donate specifically to the JRC’s “Shock Free Zone” program, which insulates power lines and transformers that run through forests to prevent them from electrocuting wildlife.

2. Donate items.

Check out the JRC’s Amazon wish list to see which items are most needed—and what they’ll be used for, too. Examples include Pampers diapers for baby monkeys, snake hooks for safely rescuing snakes, and cans of worms to feed birds, opossums, and bats.

One of the most important products on the list is powdered goat’s milk, which staff members use to feed orphans of many mammalian species at the JRC.

“It has the most universally digestible enzyme compared to other milk,” Torey says. “Unfortunately, we do not have sloth milk, monkey milk, etc. readily available for the baby animals.”

3. “Adopt” an animal.

diavolino, a margay at the jaguar rescue center
Diavolino, the Jaguar Rescue Center's "feisty little margay."
Jaguar Rescue Center

For $105, you can virtually “adopt” an animal at the JRC. Choices range from Diavolino, a “feisty little margay” rescued from the illegal pet trade, to Floqui, a whitish two-fingered sloth who was born with only one digit on each hand and foot.

4. Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center.

You can stay overnight at the JRC in one of its three visitor residences—La Ceiba House, Ilán Ilán House, or one of the Jaguar Inn bungalows—which offer a variety of amenities, restaurant service, and access to nearby beaches.

Whether or not you’re staying there, you can book a tour of the JRC, where you’ll get to explore the premises and even meet some of the animals. There are private, public, nighttime, and VIP tours, and you can find out more here.

5. Volunteer at the Jaguar Rescue Center.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on, potentially life-changing way to help Costa Rica’s wildlife, you can apply for the JRC’s four-week volunteer program or a position at La Ceiba Natural Reserve that lasts three to six months.

According to the website, JRC volunteers are housed in the Jaguar Inn and help with “a broad range of tasks, from doing the dishes and cleaning up after the animals ... to building and remodeling enclosures, or babysitting a new arrival to ease the stress of their new environment.”

La Ceiba volunteers, on the other hand, stay right on the reserve and do everything from monitoring captive and recently released animals to keeping the trails clear.

Find out more about becoming a volunteer here.

South Carolina Farm Needs Volunteers to Cuddle With Pigs and Feed Them Cookies

Giulia_Schiavi/iStock via Getty Images
Giulia_Schiavi/iStock via Getty Images

A little over a year ago, 550 pigs were rescued from a hoarding situation in Kentucky and relocated to the Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina. Only about 150 rescue pigs are still waiting to find their forever homes, but first they’re going to need plenty of cuddles and cookies.

Delish reports the sanctuary is looking for “piggy cuddlers” to help socialize the pigs and prepare them for adoption. According to a Facebook post, this entails scratching the pigs’ bellies, feeding them cookies, and even just talking to them.

“We have people come out and spend about an hour at a time with them, three times a week,” sanctuary president Josh Carpenter-Costner told WLTX. “Within a month they are generally totally ready to be adopted.”

If you’re new to the notion of owning a pet pig, there are a few things you should know. For one, you can definitely house-train them—even more quickly than you can house-train dogs, according to Carpenter-Costner—and that means they can be indoor pets. While you don’t need an entire farm’s worth of space to keep your pig happy, you should have at least one-fourth of an acre of land around which your pig can roam and root at its leisure.

And, if full-time pig parenting isn’t a responsibility you’re quite ready for, spending a few hours with Cotton Branch’s snuggly swine might be the perfect happy medium. The farm also houses ducks, turkeys, and other abandoned, elderly, or disabled animals, so pig cuddling isn’t the only volunteer activity you could participate in.

Find out more about how to get involved here.

[h/t Delish]