ROCHESTER HILLS — Holy Family Regional School students and parents teamed up recently to knit together some home comfort for children in need of a blanket and a friend.

On Saturday Dec. 2, Holy Family hosted local nonprofit Fleece and Thank You as part of the school’s annual Christmas outreach project. Fleece and Thank You works with schools, churches, business and sports teams by providing fleeces and knitting supplies to make blankets for children in area hospitals.

Jon Myers, principal at Holy Family Regional School, wanted the project to be a way to bring families together to provide a simple token of comfort for a child in the hospital. 

“We are making blankets that we are sending to children staying in hospitals for a long period of time,” Myers told the Detroit Catholic on Saturday. “Families were invited to come together, grab a fleece and create a blanket. We then invite the families to say a special prayer for the recipient of the blanket.”

After families made their blankets, each group recorded a short video message to accompany the blanket, providing a personal connection for a child in the hospital who could use a friend on the outside.

Jackson Sancimino, Niki Sancimino and Jackson Sancimino work together on a blanket at Holy Family Regional School’s “Fleece and Thank You” project.

“The personalized video message that comes with each blanket makes it a full circle connection where the family who makes the blanket can say they believe in the person in the hospital,” said Bryce Goulah, co-founder of Novi-based Fleece and Thank You.

“What’s really cool for the family with the child in the hospital is they have the opportunity to send a message directly back to the blanket maker,” Goulah said. “So the people who make the blankets can see how much this blanket has meant for the child in the hospital.”

Goulah said he co-founded Fleece and Thank You in 2015 after his own experience volunteering in hospitals and seeing the lack of comfort items in the patient rooms. 

“The mental, emotional, physical difference it makes for a child to have a gift blanket to feel safe in is unbelievable,” Goulah said. “The comfort blanket is something they would typically have in their own bed, so having these blankets makes a big difference for these families.”

Lauren Lewinski and kindergartener Allie Lewinski make a blanket as part of Holy Family Regional School’s “Fleece and Thank You” project.
Jamie Corsetti and Second-grader Anna Corsetti huddle in the corner as they work on a fleece blanket together.
Eighth-grader Sydney Rizzo works on a fleece that will be given to a child in the hospital.

The personalized video messages – and the opportunity for the recipients to respond – is just as important as the blankets themselves, Goulah said.

“The messages really bring things full circle with the community and the kids, especially,” Goulah said. “It provides them with that friendship they lose when they are in the hospital room and get super disconnected with being between four hospital walls for so long. We’re able to provide a blanket of comfort and a friend for socialization, to let them know these kids in this school are thinking about them while they’re in the hospital.”

An added benefit of the program, Myers added, is the chance to bring parents and children together to work side-by-side for a service project.

“One of our goals at the start of the year was to get families involved together, participating together as a family,” Myers said. “This project is about making a connection with other children, our families making connection with other families. This time of year, Advent, is about sharing Christ’s light, so it aligned with our theme too.”

Myers estimates Holy Family will be supplying about 300 blankets after four hours of work on a Saturday, with the blankets to be distributed across Michigan.

Some families chose to make more than one blanket, Myers said. With Saturday morning basketball games taking place in the gymnasium nearby, plenty of families stopped in between games to pitch in.

“Every really loves this project,” Myers said. “We had a student who was once hospitalized who received one of the Fleece and Thank You blankets in a prior year. That family reached out to me and was particularly thankful we were doing this project. It’s a great way to show our students we’re all one family.”