by Maria Determan
We all have that one object, whether it be the worn out teddy bear from your infant days, the pillow pet from your fifth grade birthday party, or the blanket that has so many holes that the thread hardly holds together. No matter the age, everyone needs comfort when they encounter a rough patch – especially the cancer patients at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). They need warmth and love as they endure one of the most difficult obstacles of their lives: harrowing rounds of chemotherapy.
Ms. Sue Altman, mathematics teacher, was approached about the tie-blanket project a few months ago while at UNMC. “A woman approached me and said, ‘You’re a teacher.’ I said, ‘yes.’ She said, ‘We need you. We need tie blankets for our patients,’” Altman said.
When the woman asked Altman if she would be willing to organize a drive, she responded, “Absolutely.” Altman knew this project could not be tackled alone, so she immediately reached out to Principal Mrs. Susie Sullivan, who supported the cause wholeheartedly.
The original idea was simple, yet sweet. Instead of the annual March 14 (3.14) pi day tradition of paper plate decoration and a slice of dessert, students indulged in a tradition that penetrated much deeper into their hearts than pi activities.
Senior Kalli Pettit spent her pre-calculus and anatomy blocks as well as hours after school tying blankets. “I really appreciate the opportunity to help others and make a positive impact on their lives,” Pettit said.
This project had an effect on the cancer patients, but also on her heart. “Having had family members that have gone through problems like this I know what it means to have people thinking about you and providing some form of support,” Pettit said.
Teachers Mrs. Linda Brock and Mrs. Lisa Schmidt swapped some of their lesson plans of note-taking with fabric-cutting for their block day schedules. Helpers sported various pi day stickers along with strings of leftover fabric in celebration.
Students shared pie and chatted about the latest Marian news, but also took moments to think about what these blankets symbolized. Freshman Rachel Achola, along with her algebra class, “reflected on who they were going to. We wanted to make sure that everyone got a blanket because the patients are all going through the same thing,” Achola said. With each blanket, students attached a note for the patient who will receive the blanket.
Joann’s Fabrics went above and beyond to help Altman purchase low-cost fleece material. Farm Credit Services of America not only donated $1000 but also sent 13 employees to Marian after school on Tuesday to tie blankets. They worked tirelessly until 5:30 p.m. to contribute to the growing stack of blankets. Mike Stodden, a local Physical Therapist, generously donated to help the cause.
The week before the drive, Altman expressed, “My dream would be 100. My hope is 60, reality 45.” The final count was 117. Piles of multi-colored blankets lined her desk and the walls of her room; the outcome was miraculous.
The overwhelming response from the student population and community at large already has Altman formulating plans for the future. “I’m hoping to do this as a tradition. I want to make this something where we get more people donating fabric throughout the year so we are ready to go,” Altman said.
“If someone cares enough to make a blanket…how cool is that. It doesn’t get any better,” Altman said.