MORRIS – Eliyah Stefanski and her mother, Kymberlie, drove to Morris from DuPage County on a rainy Saturday to sew blankets that will be donated to children with autism or sensory disorders.
Eliyah said this project gave her an excuse to sew, volunteer, feel useful and experience what it means to get behind an organization that helps youth just like her.
“These blankets actually help me sleep,” Eliyah said. “I used to put six blankets on me and I would overheat and wake up, but I needed the weight of all of the blankets to sleep. With this weighted blanket, I don’t have to layer up to get comfy and that helps me sleep.”
On Dec. 1, members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in Morris, community volunteers and volunteers with Weighted Comfort for Kids met at 520 W. Illinois Ave. to sew and fill weighted blankets that will be donated to children from ages 2 to 18 who qualify with an autism spectrum disorder or sensory processing disorder diagnosis.
Weighted Comfort for Kids began by two sisters in Dwight named Katie Kinzler and Liz Depew. Kinzler said a friend tried to win a weighted blanket at a fundraiser and she decided to use her skills to sewing a blanket as a gift for the child of this friend. She said she began to talk about the need and the nonprofit began in July 2015.
Two years ago, GFWC-IL Morris Woman’s Club member Mary Lee Howard heard about Weighted Comfort for Kids when she attended a spaghetti dinner fundraiser.
Howard said she has been involved in children’s organizations all of her life, so when she went to contribute, she fell in love with the organization. She brought the idea to the women’s club to hold a sewing event once a month and it has been going strong since that time.
“We are a service organization and we give back to the community, state and internationally,” Howard said.
During the past six events, the GFWC-IL Morris Woman’s Club monthly sewing group has produced 52 blankets, nine in November alone.
An average of 8 to 10 people show up to volunteer their sewing time for a three-hour block and can either sew or fill the blankets with the polypropylene pellets which make the blankets weighted.
The type of fill allows the blankets to be washable and Kinzler said not all of them available in stores and online have washable fill.
Howard said the service project was open to anyone who wanted to donate time to sew.
“This is an ideal project for kids who need service hours. If someone can sew a straight line, they are welcome and we also teach people how to sew,” he said.
The recipients of the weighted blankets are derived from the Weighted Comfort for Kids organization.
Each blanket will be individually tailored to the size and weight of the child and whether they need a full blanket or lap pad. Because of high demand, children are almost two years out for blanket placement.
If one were to buy a weighted blanket online, which have increased in popularity, it could run $100 to $400 depending upon its size and type of fill.
Weighted Comfort for Kids runs solely on financial donations to purchase fabric, fill and supplies and once the supplies have been purchased, can only make as many blankets as volunteers can sew.
Kinzler said two groups currently offer sewing groups and she would like to see more created to fill the demands.
“We always had high expectations, but we have seen our Facebook page grow by hundreds over the past few months and the need has become greater. We can now guarantee to have 20 blankets made per month,” Kinzler said.
Some recipients have shared benefits of the weighed blankets to Kinzler. She said some children have been able to reduce the amount of sleep medications or be able to sleep through the night, calm down, stop meltdowns, relieve anxious behavior and more.
Kymberlie said she has two children who qualified for weighed blankets and while one has a sensory issue that creates a barrier to using the blanket and will take time to fully benefit, the other, Eliyah, cocoons in hers.
“I heard they calm down anxious or disorganized children, so I thought it was worth a try. For one, it’s calming and she wraps herself in it,” Kymberlie said of Eliyah.
For information on how to help the GFWC-IL Morris Woman’s Club sew blankets or how to become involved in the service organization, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about Weighted Comfort for Kids, visit weightedcomfortforkids.org.