Members of ‘Project Linus’ create blankets of love for NICU babies and families

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - New parents eagerly await the moment they can bring their baby home.  But for many, their babies must spend days or weeks in the intensive care unit.  It's a scary and stressful time.

One north Alabama group is doing what it can to ease parents' worry while also providing a little bit of comfort and love.

Lawanda Howell imagined the birth of her baby for months, but the moment came far too soon.

"Unexpectedly I was rushed to the hospital and because he was turned breech and wasn't able to come out that way, we had an emergency C-section," said Howell.

Her son Miles was born weeks premature.  Doctors couldn't promise he'd even be home by Christmas.

A nurse in the neonatal unit at Huntsville Hospital, Howell had seen other mothers go through this before.  But it didn't make it any easier.

"To have to come a few times or even have to go hours and hours without seeing your baby, when the baby is born you're supposed to be with them every day," said Howell.

She found that soon she -- like so many other mothers -- looked for any small comfort.

The helpers

The buzzing, snipping, and chattering of 12 dozen ladies and a gentleman fill a church hall.  They make up Project Linus.

"The fact that they are hooked up to tubes and are in this sterile environment, this is a little bit of love," said Peggy Hawkins, the coordinator.

Started in 1985, Project Linus has 400 chapters across the U.S.  One is right here in the Tennessee Valley.

Members quilt, knit, and sew blankets for babies in the NICU.

"This is my way of giving back. I had a son who was in the NICU 19 years ago and I just feel like it's a wonderful, worthwhile project to be involved in," said Lisa Marshall.

The blankets themselves are works of art.  For the kids and parents, they become a lasting treasure.

"Some of them bring the blankets back with the babies because it becomes the baby's wobbles or sleep blankets.  I had one mom tell me the baby drug the blanket around so long she finally had to put it in the attic to hide it from her so she could keep it," said Pam Farris, Palliative Care Clinical Support Coordinator.

"This is not a lot, but it's a little bit of comfort to a child that could be scared, in pain, this might be the only thing they have," said Peggy Hawkins.

The blankets not only bring comfort.  Each stitch holds a lot of love.

Since the north Alabama chapter got its start in 2007, members have distributed more than 10,700 blankets to neonatal intensive care units across north Alabama.

They've also created countless pillow cases for kids in the pediatric unit, and gowns for the babies who don't make it home.

If you would like to get involved with Project Linus, Holmes Street United Methodist Church hosts several 'Blanket Dayz' events every year.  Call the church at (256) 534-0292 for more information, or email Peggy Hawkins at peghawkins@bellsouth.net.

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