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Ogema students help others through ‘Project Linus’

Vincent Pickett and Ozaawaa Burnett trim the edges of their fleece material to make a tie blanket for Project Linus. The fourth grade Ogema students are creating blankets for other kids in need. PIPPI MAYFIELD/RECORD

The fourth graders of Ogema Elementary School are learning the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with giving back to others by making warm fuzzy blankets for kids in need.

Every May after the MCA testing is completed, fourth grade teacher Carla Otten said she wants to have fun activities for her students, but ones that are still productive. Making blankets fit both niches.

“This still works with math and reading but is fun,” she said.

Last year, Otten heard from a fellow teacher about the Project Linus program, where volunteers hand make blankets to donate to children “who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer ‘blanketeers,’’ according to the website.

She thought it would be a great project for her students. It is affordable, able to be completed in a couple hours and something the kids could relate to by giving to other children.

Otten asked her students to bring $2 each for fleece, and The Belles (a women’s group) from St. Mary of the Lakes also donated money for the fleece. Otten then purchased the fleece in various designs and colors, and students got to pick which designs they wanted to use to create the blankets.

When completed, the two groups of students will have produced 13 blankets for Project Linus.

Before starting on the project, Otten said she talked with her students about “giving to others, haring your time, talent, treasures.” She talked about philanthropy, a word the students have come to learn well this spring.

“You help people by making blankets for people. It makes you feel good inside,” fourth graders Janea Warren said.

“They are for people who had their house burned down, homeless people,” classmate Nakomis Stech said.

Stech and Emma Teiken, who worked together on a blanket, both said they have created blankets before and are enjoying it again.

“I’ve helped my grandma. I’ve done quilting,” Teiken said.

“It’s good because it reminded me how good I felt doing these projects,” Stech said.

Otten said that last year her students cut and tied the quilts in the library and the librarian’s granddaughter ended up receiving one of those blankets later. She recognized it from the students working on them in her library.

Otten said it’s stories like that that are fun to hear, but it’s even more fun to see the kids get involved in the project.

“The kids were so proud to be able to hand her the ones they made,” Otten said of last year’s kids giving the blankets to Project Linus area coordinator Kay Oakland.

“I am excited when children are willing to share their talents to help other children, who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need. It is amazing how well Carla Otten has organized this philanthropic project for the children,” Oakland said. “I believe it is a wonderful learning opportunity for them.”

Otten would agree.

“I’m so proud that they are so willing to bring in their own money for this good cause, learning it’s nice to give to others and not just get things,” she said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.