One of the scariest experiences for a young child is having to go to the hospital. In most cases, the environment isn’t welcoming. It can be intimidating, even frightening to a youngster.
25-year-old Michigan native Nicholas Kristock was determined to find a way to put a smile on hospitalized children’s faces after his soccer career ended. Kristock’s sister is a nurse, and they had been discussing the trauma children experience when checking into a hospital. That conversation began when their friend, 4-year-old Sophie, started battling a deadly cancer: neuroblastoma.
“At a time in her life when she should be playing with dolls and meeting new friends, Sophie is taking trips to the hospital to battle one of the toughest forms of childhood cancer. This means many rounds of difficult chemotherapy treatments involving multiple overnight stays in the hospital. Sophie has had her childhood stolen from her,” Kristock explained.
“I learned from my sister how one of the first hurdles a sick kid faces is not feeling defeated just by the initial reality a hospital room represents, and I thought, ‘What can we do to change that?’”
That conversation led to a simple, yet brilliant, item that’s now helping children all across the country better cope with illnesses: fleece blankets.
Not ordinary ones, mind you. These blankets are handmade, bold, bright and fun. The idea was such a hit that Nick founded the non-profit Fleece & Thank You to realize the vision.
“Sophie has had her childhood stolen from her, and it is our goal to provide hope and comfort to all children like Sophie facing hospital treatments.”
Everyday, kids like little Sophie are thrown into a cold, harsh and scary environment. Kristock’s website provides a vivid description:
Imagine a hospital room. Dull, white sheets on the bed. Scary beeps and boops of the monitors on the IV pole. A cold, bone-chilling temperature that makes you shiver.
It’s a scary environment to think about, and yet, every minute in America, 11 children are admitted into the hospital and face this very intimidating experience.
Stripped from their everyday routine of friends, school, sports, and activities, they are scared of the unknown future that will come with an extended hospital stay.
Right now, we face a reality that needs our urgent attention: many kids go into the hospital and are met with the scary room we just imagined. They begin their treatments in a fearful atmosphere, and a little voice in their head says, “I am defeated already.”
They are in need of comfort. They are in need of warmth. They are in need of hope.
What if we could help?
“The key to a child conquering the standard hospital environment is to provide them with something bright and comforting to combat the darkness,” Kristock told The University of Michigan health blog.
“We can provide that motivation to endure long treatments and the confidence in knowing someone is rooting for you” in the form of a blanket.
In 2016 alone, the organization gave away roughly 9,000 fleece blankets to children in need of some cheer and “armor.”
— Riley? (@ChiodoRiley) December 14, 2016
Fleece & Thank You encourages groups to make the blankets and submit a video. The organization provides a template so children as young as five years old can make them. So far, the crowd favorite happens to be super heroes.
— Meadowbrook (@MeadowbrookEle) December 16, 2016
The blankets aren’t just random, either. You can put a personal touch on them, as well as send a message to the child you’re helping. It’s much more than just writing a check. You actually get to cheer this child on and let them know they have people in their corner.
Our mission is to provide donors the unique opportunity to give comfort and hope to children by creating a fleece blanket and a personalized video message. The healing connection we foster by linking blanket makers to children with illnesses allows us to cheer them on at the starting line of their treatment journey. Children thrive on love and acceptance. The videos that come from every blanket maker are comforting and inspiring to the child as they realize they are not in this alone; there are people on the outside of the hospital walls who care about their fight.
We work with members of the community to make blankets and video messages, and then we deliver that comfort to the hospital. Our goal is a simple one: every child in every hospital bed receiving much-needed hope in the form of a colorful, fleece blanket at the start of treatment.
To find out how you can help provide a child with a blanket from Fleece & Thank You, visit their website: http://fleeceandthankyou.org/