- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

NICOLLET, Minn. (AP) - A blanket holds special meaning to 16-year-old Hailey Sherwood of Nicollet.

Her foster parents, now her adoptive parents, bought her a Winnie the Pooh blanket when she was first brought to their home at six months old. She’s kept it ever since, holding it dear and sleeping with it every night.

“I use it as a security blanket,” she told the Mankato Free Press (https://bit.ly/2gJ70Bj ). “It’s something that makes me feel safe and comforted.”

Entering a new foster home can be a scary experience for children. Knowing this, Sherwood came up with a project to help them feel the same comfort she felt growing up.

Coordinating with the local Adoption Support Network, Sherwood and others recently made 41 tie blankets at Hosanna Lutheran Church, with plans to donate them to Nicollet County’s foster programs. Another nine blankets were made in the last week, raising the total to 50. Sherwood and her adoptive mother, April, plan to deliver them to the county this week in hope they can be distributed by Christmas.

The project is part of Sherwood’s schooling at Blue Sky Online Charter School. Class members took part in a WE Day conference - a movement seeking to empower people to pursue world-changing initiatives - this fall, which inspired her and others to come up with a local and global service project.

Sherwood chose a project close to her heart.

“With my experience I thought it would impact those kids greatly, and help them be able to feel safe,” she said.

She contacted the Adoption Support Network, a program funded by the Department of Human Services, to see if children who’d been adopted and their families wanted to help make the blankets. She also checked with local counties to find out where the needs were. Blue Earth County already had some blankets from another project, but Nicollet County was in need of 40-plus blankets.

Before adopting Hailey, April was a foster parent for more than 10 years. She said she’s seen children arrive with little more than the clothes on their back. It’s why getting a blanket for Hailey was such a big deal.

“When she came to my home I wanted her to have her own blanket and her own things,” she said.

The Sherwoods hope the project does more than help foster children feel comforted in their new surroundings. They want the project to raise more awareness of the need for more foster and adoptive parents.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services lists 866 children under state guardianship in its latest report from September. The majority of them are in need of adoptive families immediately. The rest are in pre-adoptive families, meaning they’re staying with relatives or foster parents who plan to adopt them.

Hailey said more people stepping up to foster or adopt would be the best possible outcome to come out of her daughter’s project.

“I’d like to encourage those people to make a difference in someone’s life by becoming a foster parent or adopting a child in Minnesota,” she said. “That would make a bigger impact, too.”

Plans for future blanket-making events can help continue awareness efforts. Deemed “Hailey’s Hope,” the Sherwoods and their local adoption support network plan to make the blanket making an annual affair.


Information from: The Free Press, https://www.mankatofreepress.com

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