I remember receiving a blue, flowery blanket when I was seven years old. I can describe it perfectly, because "Blanks" rests in a drawer in my bedroom to this day. It is just a scrap of its original form, but Blanks reminds me of the warmth and security that it provided me when I was so young; and it still makes me feel that way today. I remember agonizing when my brother hid Blanks to torment me, and refusing to go to bed until my mother returned it to me from the laundry. I think every adult that had a blanket has a memory or two just like mine, which makes it easy to appreciate the significance of tonight's "Making a Difference" segment.
Eleven years ago, a PARADE magazine photograph of a young cancer patient clutching her blanket inspired Karen Loucks Rinedollar, of Parker, Colo., to make blankets for children being treated for the disease at her local hospital. "Project Linus" -- appropriately named -- caught on, and today is a national enterprise comprising over 400 chapters and thousands of volunteer "blanketeers" who
have donated nearly two million homemade blankets to kids during a time when they could use one. In recent years, Project Linus has mobilized after national tragedies, such as the Columbine school shooting, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina, and for children that have lost a parent to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Karen Loucks Rinedollar covers a young patient at the Children's Hospital in Denver with a 'Project Linus' blanket.
Image by NBC's Ray Farmer
Karen's idea has touched a lot of lives. As we followed Karen through the halls of The Children's Hospitals in Denver and Parker last week, we witnessed the effect her gifts had on little children with big illnesses. They loved it; the blankets were great therapy. One nurse pointed out to me: "We can't make all of these children better, but we can make it a better situation." Each of us that had a blanket as a child knows just what she means. I hope you tune in tonight to meet Karen.