After participating in a kindness retreat earlier this school year, McKinley Elementary School fourth-graders put what they learned into practice this month by donating 105 tie blankets to Minnesota Oncology’s Fridley Clinic.
Fourth-graders at the Ham Lake school came up with the idea to donate blankets to cancer patients, spurred by teacher Jeanne Baker’s recent experiences.
“My kids lost their grandma to cancer right before school started this year,” she said.
One day, when Baker’s mother-in-law went to receive treatment, a stranger gave her a blanket that she had made and said she was thinking of her. Baker’s mother-in-law continued to bring that blanket with her to each subsequent treatment and told her family how much that stranger’s kindness meant.
Teacher Melissa Eilertson reminded students that kindness does not expect anything in return. But kindness is also a boomerang.
“If you throw out kindness into the world, you will get it back when you need it,” Eilertson said.
The goal was to make 25 blankets.
But McKinley families donated enough money and materials for students to make 105 blankets for Minnesota Oncology patients.
The day before winter break, students tied all 105 blankets.
Student Julia Ogren was allowed to bring a blanket to her great-aunt who was undergoing cancer treatment at the time.
When Julia gave her the blanket, she started to cry at the act of kindness, Julia recalled. Julia’s great-aunt has since passed away.
Student Lydia Worden also had a personal connection to this project with her grandmother undergoing cancer treatment.
“She is now out of the hospital, and she’s feeling better,” Lydia said.
Alexia Hansen, Minnesota Oncology’s Fridley Clinic practice manager, came to McKinley Jan. 18 to accept the blankets on behalf of the clinic.
Hansen explained what she does for a living and the importance of “the little things” in patients’ journeys.
She shared with students a poem she wrote called “What a Blanket Means”:
It starts with some fabric, maybe bright blue or gold
And ideas to tie here – no there, or so you’ve been told
The cloth begins to change and become something new
Much like our cancer patients who are on their journey, too
All of us get scared sometimes and can be filled with fright
But now our patients have something warm to get them through the night
Because, these blankets mean so much more than being cozy
It means someone thought of you when life wasn’t rosy
To say thank you doesn’t seem quite enough
So without going into too much emotional stuff
Please know our hearts are wide open and our arms will hold tight,
This gift from new friends which will help us through the fight.