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.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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San Pedro, California Is Home to the Country’s Only Volunteer-Run Post Office

A vintage postcard of San Pedro, California.
A vintage postcard of San Pedro, California.
Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There are more than 30,000 post offices in the United States, but only one of them is staffed entirely by volunteers. As Fast Company reports, the nonprofit-run Assistance League Post Office has been serving customers in San Pedro, California, since 1964.

The Assistance League Post Office is one of many contract postal units around the country. Contract postal units are run privately instead of publicly, usually by a business. The post office in San Pedro is unique in that it's operated by a nonprofit organization.

More than 50 years ago, the San Pedro chapter of the Assistance League opened the post office to service its growing community, which includes the Port of Los Angeles. The location only sold stamps for decades, then expanded into a full-service post office in 1990. In addition to running the local postal service, the Assistance League of San Pedro provides low-income residents with orthodontia care, glasses, sexual assault survivor kits, and new school clothes—all resources that revenue from the post office helps pay for.

To make its charitable mission possible, the post office relies on volunteers. Post office chairman Gayle Merrick runs a staff of 17 volunteers—all retired women between the ages of 65 and 87. Their backgrounds range from medicine to education, and they commit to giving three to four days of their time to the post office each month. Many people who volunteer at the Assistance League Post Office stick around for a while; the longest-serving volunteer worked there for a quarter of a century.

The San Pedro post office closed to the public in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its customers and volunteers are still waiting for it to return. Merrick tells Fast Company that she hopes to reopen by October 1, in time to help process local mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.

[h/t Fast Company]