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 Lauren 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.
Lauren 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."
Lauren Blankenship took on the service project after attending the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy – a camp out of Oakbrook 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, Lauren Blankenship's project ended up helping hundreds of children in four 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 Center in Streamwood asking if she would include them 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 Blankenship. "I was just overwhelmed. People just came with bags of toys."
Lauren Blankenship said the deadline to complete the project was right around Christmas time, so she decided to donate them 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 last. Though last summer was the first time she had attended the camp, she said she has plans to go back next year.