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Ro-Hawk quilters make 'security blankets' for premature infants, traumatized children

By Sean Bowlin | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs OL-Bravo | March 30, 2010

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — What began as a senior class project spearheaded by a Randolph High School teacher is giving a lot of premature babies and traumatized children "security blankets."

Additionally, business teacher Shirley McMenamin said the senior class's and other Ro-Hawk students' participation in a national effort called "Project Linus," where people make blankets and quilts for the children, has grown far beyond her expectations.

"I was hoping for 20 quilts," said the quilting enthusiast. "I've turned in 90 so far."

Ms. McMenamin said since right before Christmas, about 60 RHS students and 10 teachers have been steadily making the quilts for children less than 1 year of age to 18 years old. The quilts range from the standard blanket-sized to placemat-sized, specifically made to cover premature babies.

"The majority of the quilts are done by hand," Ms. McMenamin added. "One girl in the project liked making them so much that she got her parents to get her a sewing machine."

That girl, senior Chelsea Glasgow, 18, daughter of Chief Master Sgt. Brian Glasgow and Senior Master Sgt. Fern Glasgow, produced 15 quilts by herself for the project. Of those, her personal favorite is a boy's quilt in three different patchwork shades of blue.

"This is something I like to do," Chelsea said of quilting, "and it's for a good cause. It feels really good to help out."

Besides mastering the intricacies of sewing, Ms. McMenamin said the Ro-Hawk quilters, during the ongoing project, learned something about human anatomy.

"They learned about how small prematurely born infants were. They also learned that preemies can't have batting, or filler, in their blankets and quilts. That would make them too heavy to be put on their little bodies," she added.

She also said the project, which will be ongoing through May, shows the Ro-Hawk students making the quilts are "caring and thoughtful."

"They are learning to show a lot of compassion to people who've had some bad luck," Ms. McMenamin explained.

One of the student quilters, RHS junior Reece Washington, 17, said anybody who thinks the project is worth it should get involved.

"The entire school should do it," he added.

Senior Tyler Burden, 18, said she has a connection to Project Linus because her brother was born prematurely.

"People made blankets for him when he was so little and it gave my mom a lot of strength and hope," Tyler said. "It also saved my parents some money."

The project's Web site at www.projectlinus.org said the effort's national headquarters is in Bloomingdale, Ill., and maintains chapters in all 50 states.

"Blankets," it said, "are collected locally and distributed to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies or anywhere that a child might be in need of a big hug."

Deanne Quill, the owner of a local sewing store, praised Ms. McMenamin and the Ro-Hawk quilters for going above and beyond in their efforts to help children in need.

"Shirley is a very enthusiastic person who's excited about teaching her students sewing skills -- for a good cause," Ms. Quill said.