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Student wraps cancer patients in blankets of hope

Ryan Anderson shows two of the blankets he and Roscoe Middle School student council members put together for cancer patients at the Swedish American Regional Cancer Center in Roscoe, Ill. | Maggie Hradecky/Rockford Register Star, distributed by the Associated Press

ROCKFORD, Ill. — When Ryan Anderson needed a community service project earlier this year for his sixth grade class at Roscoe (Ill.) Middle School, his mom told him to let his imagination go wild.

“I said, ‘Go ahead. Think big,'” said Anderson’s mom, Terra. “‘Don’t worry about the money. I’ll fund the project.'”

It didn’t take long for Anderson, a creative and athletic 12-year-old, to come up with an idea.

“My sister was making some blankets for her friends for their birthdays, so I thought that would be a good idea for my community service project,” Anderson said.

Using seed money from his mom, Anderson purchased enough fleece for 10 blankets for patients at the SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center. He matched the main sections, cut the fringe, tied the edges and added a note:

“Hi, my name is Ryan. I made this blanket for you to remind you that you are not alone in the fight against cancer. Hopefully this blanket makes you feel better when you do not feel the best. Sincerely, Ryan.”

And while the project’s creation came from a school assignment, the project’s longevity comes from Anderson’s heart.

Roscoe Middle School student council members have helped Ryan Anderson put together blankets for cancer patients at the Swedish American Regional Cancer Center in Roscoe, Ill. Anderson started the project last school year. To date, he has delivered nearly 40 blankets to patients at the center. Each blanket comes with a note for the patient. | Maggie Hradecky/Rockford Register Star, distributed by the Associated Press

Roscoe Middle School student council members have helped Ryan Anderson put together blankets for cancer patients at the Swedish American Regional Cancer Center in Roscoe, Ill. Anderson started the project last school year. To date, he has delivered nearly 40 blankets to patients at the center. Each blanket comes with a note for the patient. | Maggie Hradecky/Rockford Register Star, distributed by the Associated Press

“It was a requirement — at first,” he said. “Now I don’t have to do it; I want to.”

Anderson, now a seventh-grader, is the vice president of his school’s student council. And he’s enlisted the help of his fellow council members to keep the blanket project going.

Council members usually meet in the mornings, but periodically get together in the afternoon to discuss business and tie up loose ends with the project.

“We’ve done eight blankets so far,” Anderson said. “We still have a lot of fabric to deal with. With the blankets I (recently) turned in, we’ve made almost 40.”

Once word got out about Anderson’s project, a handful of donations floated in – both financial and fabric. Anderson and his mom choose the extra fabric together, trying not to use the same pattern twice, in order to accommodate a patient’s tastes.

“We’ve spent quite a bit of money on it, but is there any money better spent?” Terra said. “It’s hopefully teaching him and his friends some wonderful life lessons. It’s easy to do, but it seems to have a really big impact.”

Anderson has received a couple of letters from patients and a note from a community member who wanted to thank him for his generosity. And he’s stolen the hearts of staff members at SwedishAmerican’s Regional Cancer Center, said the center’s director, Diane Scoville.

“He is such a special young man, we love him.”

Distributed by the Associated Press