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Westside fifth graders make blankets for hospitalized children

Holly Erickson's fifth grade class at Westside tied blankets for hospitalized children. Submitted photo

Fifth grade students at Westside Elementary School in Holly Erickson's class learned the spirit of giving recently as they made blankets to give to hospitalized children. The students made 11 blankets in cheerful red and green holiday fabrics, tying the quilts and adding finishing touches after volunteers sewed the quilt edges together with sewing machines in their homes.

On the last day of school before Christmas break, the blankets were folded neatly and tied with colorful ribbons and heartwarming handwritten notes from the students. The colorful blankets were placed into a plastic storage bin, ready to be packed into a big box and mailed to the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital in Fairview, Minn. One of the blankets will be given to Tyler Schroeder, son of Rob and Moe Schroeder, from Arthur, N.D., who was born on August 22, 2008, with a congenital heart disease, and has undergone several surgeries at the U of M.

Erickson knows firsthand how important it is for children with extended stays in the hospital and their families to receive comforting blankets or encouraging words from others. Her son, Aaron, who was born on May 13, 2007, has undergone three open heart surgeries, and has spent much of his young life in and out of the hospital at the U of M. Holly, and her husband, John, have relied on support from their family, friends, and co-workers who have rallied around the Erickson family, helping them get through the toughest of times.

One of Erickson's students, Andrew Vetter, also knows how much it means to have support from the community and caring friends and relatives. His sister, Caroline, died last March after a three-year battle with Leukodystrophy and epilepsy. Helping make the blankets was a very rewarding experience for Andrew.

"I felt like I was repaying my debt from when many people helped my family with my sister - like they did many times," Andrew said when Erickson asked the students how they felt about making the blankets.

Erickson was delighted when the students embraced the blanket project, feeling that it was a very fitting way to share comfort with others, and a small way to say thank you for the tender care each of these three children were given at the U of M. She is very proud of how kindhearted her fifth graders are. She shared some of the comments she heard from the students as they worked on the blankets:

Siri: "I felt happy to help other kids so they could be cheered up over the holiday time. They will like their blankets"

Bailey: "I felt great because I could help babies and parents. Parents need to know we all still care about them."

Mariah: "I felt good to help other people."

Marshall: "It felt great to help kids who are sick in the hospital."

Cody: "I felt good to do something for a good cause."

Cole: "I felt happy to make other kids happy."

Alec: "I felt great because I could help families in the hospital who need a smile."

Morgen: "I felt good because the blankets could touch the lives of other people."

Annika: "I felt generous."

Alex: "I felt like I was doing a good deed, because it is cold in the hospital. This is a good cause."

Justin: "I felt good because we are giving the parents a break by helping their child smile while they are in the hospital."

Taylor: "I felt good inside because I could help other kids that have something wrong with them."

Erickson said it was very touching to watch the kids working so hard on the blankets. It was also emotional for her to have her family helping with the project. Aaron's grandmother drove in from Hitterdal, Minn., on several occasions to help in the classroom, and his great-grandmother and a friend helped sew quilt pieces together on their sewing machines at home.

The blankets are just one of several service projects Erickson's students have decided to do this year. Their goal is to work on at least one project every month. One of their upcoming projects will be working with West Fargo High School students to help the Ronald McDonald House.