McKinley 4th-graders make blankets for cancer patients

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

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.

Lydia Worden, left, and Julia Ogren are two of more than 140 fourth-grade students at McKinley Elementary School who made tie blankets to donate to Minnesota Oncology’s Fridley Clinic. Photos by Olivia Alveshere
Lydia Worden, left, and Julia Ogren are two of more than 140 fourth-grade students at McKinley Elementary School who made tie blankets to donate to Minnesota Oncology’s Fridley Clinic. Photos by Olivia Alveshere

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.

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Alexia Hansen, Minnesota Oncology Fridley Clinic practice manager, talks with fourth-graders about cancer and the impact these blankets will have on patients. Alexia Hansen, Minnesota Oncology Fridley Clinic practice manager, collects tie blankets from McKinley Elementary School fourth-graders Jan. 18. McKinley Elementary School fourth-grade students donated 105 tie blankets to Minnesota Oncology’s Fridley Clinic this month.
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Alexia Hansen, Minnesota Oncology Fridley Clinic practice manager, talks with fourth-graders about cancer and the impact these blankets will have on patients.