In real life, a blanket can indeed be a thing of comfort for a child in a stressful situation. That's the motivation behind "Project Linus," a nationwide charity which sends handmade blankets or afghans to children who are "seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need."
Shelbyville's Linda Mercer, one of the group's volunteers, is now sending homemade blankets to Japan for children affected by the earthquake, tsunami and related events.
"It's just a small thing we can do," said Mercer, whose sister Karen van Oostenrijk founded the Nashville chapter of Project Linus.
The Project Linus web site (projectlinus.org) states the rationale for sending homemade blankets.
"We receive thousands of letters and thank you notes every year from children," states the web site. "Over and over they express how touched they are that a stranger would take the time to make something for them. They really know the difference. Purchased blankets are nice, but handmade blankets are from the heart."
Mercer estimates that in the six years she's been involved with Project Linus, she has given about 250 blankets.
Mercer likes finding fleece with interesting or appropriate prints that a child might enjoy -- for example, she recently found some fleece with a Boy Scout print, something sure to be appropriate for some young Scout.
According to the web site, the blankets must be free of smoke, fragrances or strong chemicals, or embellishments like buttons which could pose a choking hazard if detached. Many of the blankets are distributed through hospitals, which will refuse the blankets if they appear to pose an allergy or safety risk.
Mercer has just taken up quilting as a hobby, but for the purposes of Project Linus simple fleece blankets are much more appropriate.
"The fleece is much quicker," she said, allowing more blankets to be produced in the same amount of time. And that means more children with a little bit of security in a stressful situation.
For more information about Project Linus, and how you can help, call Mercer at (615) 785-2724.