DTCC students make blankets for young cancer patients

Jul. 19, 2013 @ 05:15 PM

Durham Tech students and staff, against a background of Top 40 hits, spent Friday morning cutting the edges of bright fleece fabric, tying and knotting the pieces to form cozy blankets.

But they weren’t taking the blankets home to place at the foot of their own beds. Instead, the finished stacks would be delivered to children and teenagers going through cancer treatments at UNC and Duke hospitals.

The DTCC volunteers have spent the past two weeks crafting 50 blankets for Project Linus, a nationwide movement to provide blankets to critically ill children or children in need. The finished security blankets been distributed to hospitals, shelters and social service agencies.

“It’s fun and it’s for a good cause,” said Gilbert Umberger, who works at DTCC in student services and student development. “Community is in our name. It’s important for us as a community college to give back to our community.”

A few of the volunteers ventured to Jo-Ann to pick a variety of fleece fabric, from little pigs wearing hats to neon hearts and soccer balls. In only two weeks, they had blankets stacked on a table inside the Wynn Student Services Center, ready for delivery.

To Shana Curl, a DTCC academic adviser, helping with Project Linus hits close to home. One of her best friends from her own college days is being treated for chronic leukemia, and her mother was diagnosed with - and beat - breast cancer.

“It’s a cause that’s close to my heart,” Curl said.

As a commuter school, it may be more difficult to pull together student volunteers for projects outside the classroom, Umberger said. But both students and visitors have dropped by, noticing the brilliant colors on the table and asking questions. A few of them even sat down and got to work.

DTCC is continuing what it started as a Student Senate service project during the 2012-13 school year, when more than 100 blankets were pieced together.

Michelle Robinson, the Student Senate’s new community outreach chair, has helped organize the effort. She has three children of her own, ranging in age from 7 to 22, and she said that if her children ever received a similar health diagnosis, she’d want the community to be there for her family.

“This is something to give back to them, to show they’re cared about,” Robinson said. “You’re not alone in this. We’re supporting you.”

To contribute to the Project Linus chapter that covers Chatham, Durham and Orange counties, call 919-650-2837.