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St. Charles East freshman donates pillows to children in hospitals

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 5:00 p.m. CDT
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(Provided photo)
Lauren Blankenship, a freshman at St. Charles East High School, recently donated more than 250 hand-made pillows, toys and books to children at four area hospitals as part of a service project.

ST. CHARLES – When Lauren Blankenship, 14, started her service project in November, her goal was to make about 150 colorful pillows to donate to children in area hospitals.

But the project took on a life of its own, thanks to the help of Blankenship’s soccer team, the Campton United Soccer Club, and some friends from school. By mid-December, the group had donated 268 pillows, along with toys and books, to children in four hospitals.

Blankenship, a freshman at St. Charles East High School, said she felt the project made a difference.

“Some kids in the hospital don’t get presents for Christmas,” she said. “Sometimes, they focus on how bad they feel, and now they can focus on getting presents, instead.”

Blankenship took on the service project after attending the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy – a camp out of Oak Brook that helped girls improve soccer skills, as well as develop leadership skills.

She said she has always enjoyed making crafts, which is why she chose to make the pillows for the project.

With 58 yards of fabric and nearly 30 pounds of stuffing, Blankenship’s project ended up helping hundreds of children in several hospitals. The gifts went to Sherman Health in Elgin, St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield – Blankenship later received a call from Streamwood Behavioral Healthcare in Streamwood asking if she would include that facility in the project, and she agreed.

She and other volunteers made 10 to 15 pillows a night starting Nov. 1, cutting the fabric and tying the edges. Soon after they started the project, monetary support and donations of gifts and books started pouring in. She estimated that about 50 people had a hand in the service project.

“We couldn’t believe it,” said Lauren’s mother, Nicole. “I was just overwhelmed. People just came with bags of toys.”

Blankenship said the deadline to complete the project was right around Christmas, so she decided to donate the items just in time for the holidays. She said they made the last delivery on the weekend of Dec. 15.

She said the service project may not be her last. Though last summer was the first time she had attended the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy, she said she has plans to go back next year.

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