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Roker lends Project Linus a helping hand

Project Linus received a huge boost last week from Today Show weatherman Al Roker who made a special visit April 18, to the West Fargo home of Lynne and Curtis Olien to conduct live remotes for the popular NBC morning broadcast.

Rokers' mission was to literally "lend a helping hand," the theme of his current U.S. tour to bolster awareness and invigorate charity organizations who are not always on the receiving end of funding and outside support, and do not always receive the public attention they deserve to get their word out. Olien is founder and chapter coordinator of the Fargo/Eastern North Dakota Chapter of the nonprofit organization that provides handmade blankets for children who are ill, traumatized or in need; in turn, providing a sense of security, warmth and comfort.

Project Linus, named after the lovable Peanuts character, is a national organization that has been in existence since 1995. At the end of 2006, approximately 400 member chapters had created almost two million blankets for distribution. The local chapters deals with 45 different agencies all over eastern North Dakota, and since its inception in January of 2006, has distributed over 2,800 blankets alone all over North Dakota through hospitals, foster care, ambulance crews, police departments, and other outlets.

Part of the Today Show visit focused on a huge van dominating the cul-de-sac in McMahon Estates. Olien was thrilled by its contents, eventually revealed by Roker, lots and lots of fabric, enough for approximately 300 blankets, as well as a variety of other related supplies, i.e. sewing machines, yarn, thread, storage containers, etc., about $23,000 in total value. "Everybody involved with our program donates what they use, so it was especially fantastic to receive the much needed supplies," Olien said.

"Awesome" was how she summed up the gigantic, overwhelming outpouring of generosity. "I know this, as a whole, will be great publicity for Project Linus and for that we are most grateful."

The only stumbling block right now is where to store all the goods. "We need a place to put it all," Olien said. She has been operating Project Linus out of a bedroom in her house since its inception, and it goes without saying, that particular room is now overflowing.

Consequently, Project Linus is in dire need of office space and is open to offers from anyone who has a facility they would like to donate to the cause.

Olien can't say enough good about Roker himself. "He was a very nice and very kind man, and we feel really honored to be chosen and recognized nationally this way."

Olien's own personal commitment and insight into Project Linus runs extremely deep, having been on the receiving end of the organization's kind and compassionate ways. Their son, Nathan, died five years ago from a rare neurological disorder. While in the hospital, his blanket was lost and nurses presented him with another that proved to be a great source of comfort at the time. When Olien was introduced to Project Linus later, she was impelled to become involved and set the wheels in motion for the present functioning local chapter.

Those interested in becoming involved with Project Linus are encouraged to contact Olien at 701-277-5790. Anyone seeking more information about the organization can go online and visit their local Web site at or the national Web site at