Sometimes the simplest things provide the greatest comfort.
Recruiting friends, family and strangers to his cause, an Eagle Scout hopeful from Utah launched a nationwide effort to collect blankets for parents whose babies are stillborn.
Benjamin Crane of the Great Salt Lake Council set his goal at 50 sets of blankets. A set includes two blankets: one for the burial and one for the grieving parents to take home.
Fifty sets was the goal on paper, but Benjamin hoped to collect enough fabric and blankets to make 300 sets. That would equal a year’s supply for his project beneficiary, a nonprofit called the Lilly Pad Project that works with local hospitals to deliver these bereavement items to families.
“Parents are mostly caught off guard in these moments,” Benjamin says. They’re “surprised at the love and comfort of having a handmade blanket for their little ones prepared by kind strangers.”
Benjamin far exceeded both his initial goal and his stretch goal. With donations coming in from at least 17 different states (many were sent anonymously), Benjamin collected 854 sets — plus enough fabric to make 50 more.
That’s enough to support the Lilly Pad Project for at least three years.
A personal touch
Benjamin read about the Lilly Pad Project online and felt connected to the story. In 2009, the nonprofit’s founder, Natalie Olsen, had a stillborn baby girl that she and her husband named Lilly.
Six years later, Olsen’s brother had a stillborn baby girl. Olsen offered to sew a burial dress for her niece using material from her sister-in-law’s wedding dress.
“It was one of the saddest, most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Olsen says. “It also helped me with the closure I never got when we lost our little girl. I love to sew, and I realized I had a way to help out grieving families.”
Benjamin had a difficult birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a baby “very low birthweight” when the child is born weighing 1,500 grams (3 pounds, 5 ounces) or less. About 1.5% of American babies are born this tiny.
When Benjamin was born, he weighed just 3 pounds, 4 ounces.
“We didn’t know what he would be capable of doing in his life,” says Benjamin’s mom, Katrina. “His struggles still linger, but the help and goodness of friends, family and strangers across the United States has laid the foundation for a successful Eagle Scout project that will echo for years — and hopefully generations.”
Reaching out online
The most impressive part about Benjamin’s project was his ability to rally people to this important cause.
He created a YouTube video showing people how to make the blankets, met with local sewing groups and reached out to people on social media to share the story.
“The first two things I did with my project was to make a Facebook page, and make a YouTube video,” Benjamin says. “I asked people to like and share my page — hoping that their friends might be able to help us out with her 50 sets of blankets. I did not account for people sharing it in all parts of the United States.”
Strangers — ranging from grandparents skilled in sewing to small children wanting to help however they could — responded in a big way. They donated time, talent, fabric and postage to the cause. They lifted up parents they’ll never meet to help them through unimaginable heartbreak.
“You don’t need to know the pain personally to understand how much these items mean to the families caught off guard,” Katrina says.
Benjamin’s efforts also impressed his famous grandfather. Brian Crane is the creator of “Pickles,” a popular syndicated comic strip.
In a Facebook post, Brian Crane shared that he’s “very proud” of his grandson. That post took off, extending Benjamin’s reach even further.
“I suddenly had people doing projects in New York, in Kentucky, and Tennessee where I don’t know a single person,” Benjamin says. “And even if they didn’t do anything, his fans tagged and shared it with their friends who do.”
Letters of support
Many of the blankets were sent with letters of support. Here are three that warmed my heart: