- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Some are pink, some are blue; some are fluffy, some are smooth. They all look different, but they share a common goal: to comfort and console a child in need.

We’re talking about blankets made by the tens of thousands of “blanketeers” - volunteer blanket-makers - of Project Linus, a national nonprofit that aims to “provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, the mission statement says.

So far, the 14-year-old group, named after the Peanuts character who uses his blanket to shield against verbal attacks, has made and delivered more than 2.7 million blankets to needy children nationwide.

There are several local chapters, including one in Annapolis, spearheaded by Sabrina Hayes, an avid knitter and crocheter.

“I got into it because I knit,” Ms. Hayes says.

Why not, she thought, share her skill and hobby for the good of needy - abused, poor, sick - children?

This is part of the group’s success story, says Carol Babbitt, national president for Project Linus. It taps into something people already are doing.

“We’re a unique organization because we fit into people’s lives,” Ms. Babbitt says. “People don’t have to take time out of their day to go volunteer at a local hospital. This is something they’re doing anyway.”

And can do in the comfort of their own homes.

In fact, blanketeers who don’t want to attend local chapter events and meetings can just hand their finished blankets to the coordinator - such as Ms. Hayes - who will make sure it ends up with a child in need in the community.

“We look at the needs in the community to find a good match for our blankets,” Ms. Hayes says.

Past recipients in Anne Arundel County include Sarah’s House, a shelter at Fort George G. Meade run by Catholic Charities; Arden House, a YWCA emergency domestic-violence shelter; and Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Ms. Hayes estimates that her chapter gives out several hundred blankets a year.

Bigger chapters - the group has about 400 chapters nationwide - do even more. The one in Boston makes and delivers monthly up to 400 blankets that can be stitched, quilted, knitted or crocheted. They can be made of cotton or acrylics. They can be simple or elaborate; cheap or expensive.

It’s all up to the blanketeer.

The guidelines are not very strict; the few rules are listed on the group’s Web site (www.projectlinus.org). For example, blankets can’t be made of wool - too difficult to wash.

“We invite people of all skill levels,” Ms. Babbitt says.

In the end, it doesn’t matter much if the blanket is made of cotton or acrylic or whether it’s quilted or crocheted. What really matters is what it represents: a caring, comforting gift arriving at a stressful, often painful, time in a child’s life.

“Blankets mean comfort for kids,” Ms. Babbitt says. “It’s called a security blanket for a reason.”

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