Childhood memories share the warmth of Project Linus

When I was a young girl, I was fascinated by one of my mother’s friends.

I used to watch Dale Madansky magically create beautiful blankets and clothing with some needles and yarn. Her skills were remarkable, and her generosity was endless.

She made gifts for everyone (including myself) but the best gift that Madansky gave me was when she taught me how to crochet when I was 9 years old. I’ve crocheted a lot over the years. To me, there is no greater satisfaction than to hand make a blanket or scarf and give it to someone special. Madansky taught me that.

She passed away last year, and one of her final wishes was for her daughters to donate all of her remaining yarn and projects to Project Linus.

If you haven’t heard of Project Linus before, it is a volunteer-run, non-profit charitable organization that began in 1995. It is nationwide, with about 400 chapters across the country.

Buffalo Grove resident Penny Gidd and Judi Goldman are the co-chapter coordinators of the North and Central Chicagoland chapter.

Gidd recently took the time to tell me more about Project Linus, and how to get involved here in our community.

“We make and deliver handmade blankets to seriously ill and traumatized children in local area hospitals and trauma centers,” Gidd explained. “We also provide blankets as needed during national disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and to children of fallen soldiers in the armed forces. Our chapter donated nearly 10,000 blankets last year.”

The chapter website, www.projectlinuschicago.webs.com, is chock full of information regarding ways you could participate. Blanket donors are encouraged to make any style blanket they like – knitted, no-sew fleece, crocheted and quilted blankets are all welcome. They ask that they be at least 36 inches by 36 inches and that they are made from new washable yarn, such as acrylic. Wool yarn cannot be accepted because of allergies.

Blankets are given to children as old as 18, so larger sized blankets are always appreciated. Drop off sites are listed, as well as a list of the places that are donation recipients, including: Lurie, Rush, Evanston and Lutheran General hospitals. A variety of days and times are listed on the website when volunteers can get together to socialize and create.

“Project Linus gives me so much more than just a place to donate blankets,” Gidd said. “It joins me with a whole community of talented blanket-makers who all want to comfort children. They are inspiring. And I get to do it with my husband who also attends events when he can.”

Gidd also told me about an upcoming fundraiser, hosted by chapter member Gale Cook, which will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. April 7 at Wendy’s, 245 McHenry Road in Buffalo Grove. Wendy’s will donate a portion of its sales to Project Linus during that time.

In conjunction with that, Cook will be hosting a Sit ‘N Stitch event until 9 p.m. that night.

“We encourage people to bring their current Linus project or to try making one of our popular PENNY blankets,” Gidd said. “This is simply crocheting around a prepared piece of fleece with any style edging you like. We have patterns to get started and prepared fleece is exchanged for fleece you buy (1.25 yards for each blanket). There will be some ready at the event. There also will be squares to draw pictures on, that are then sewn into a simple quilt by our volunteers. This is fun thing for kids of all ages to do.”

Even if you are not crafty, there are many other ways to get involved:

• Groups have held fundraising drives such as a bake sale or car wash.

• Project Linus accepts donations of new, 100 percent cotton fabric (fabric should measure at least 8-inches wide), new washable yarn, gift cards from Hancock Fabrics or Joann’s, postage stamps and fleece fabric in child-friendly designs. Donations can be given to Judi Goldman, 637 Charlemagne, Northbrook.

• Monetary donations are always appreciated as well. Donation checks can be sent to Project Linus, 14 Wakefield Court, Buffalo Grove, IL 60089.

• Classrooms, scout troops and youth groups have participated in the Project Linus “Kids Helping Kids” program, which fosters pride in volunteerism for children of all ages by donating handmade blankets to children who are undergoing a crisis in their lives. It is a powerful experience, as children instinctively understand how much comfort a blanket provides when they are sick or scared. A chapter representative may be available to introduce Project Linus to your group. Please call Judi Goldman at (847) 498-3987 if you wish to schedule a speaker.

That’s all for now; please keep in touch and send neighborhood news to Aileen Simons at Thewritetouch1@aol.com.

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