ROCK SPRINGS — There’s just something about a warm, cozy blanket.
When a child must be sent by air ambulance from Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County to another hospital for treatment, a blanket is often sent with them. Tonya Atkins and her son, Jarrett, are all too familiar with the tradition.
Jarrett’s brother, Tucker, was hit by a car when he was nearly 2 years old. He suffered a variety of health issues over the years, which often resulted in a hospital stay. He had collected four or five of those blankets. It’s been just over two years since Tucker died at age 13.
His mom keeps every one of them.
“It’s comforting for a child to see a normal childhood thing when they’re at a hospital, where everything is out of the norm,” Tonya Atkins said. “A blanket is a normal, everyday childhood thing.”
That’s where Jarrett got the inspiration for his Eagle Scout project.
Leading the Way
Jarrett, a senior at Green River High School, decided to lead a community project in which he would gather blankets and stuffed animals to help stock Sweetwater Memorial’s Emergency Department.
He posted flyers and involved his church community. Some bought blankets to donate, others made them. Jarrett ended up with a team of five people making hand-tied, fleece blankets.
“All of the cutting and tying takes a while,” Jarrett said. So far, he has donated 26 blankets and 14 stuffed animals. “My mom came up with the idea,” he said.
Knowing how much his brother appreciated the blankets he received, Jarrett said it was the perfect project. His family cherishes those Tucker had collected. One of the first blankets he received was an “Elmo” blanket, given to him after a major surgery.
“Just seeing the bright colors, knowing that somebody would do that for us even though they didn’t know us,” said Tonya Atkins, eyes welling with tears.
Tucker was given a crocheted blanket the first time he had a seizure. He was 5 years old and the family was in Cheyenne. It has a tag, “Made With Tender Loving Care for Project Linus.”
Sweetwater Memorial’s stock of traveling blankets have been donated over the years by a wide variety of individuals and organizations. In the end, this Eagle Scout project will impact everyone who receives one, Tonya Atkins said.
“It may not be physically lasting for the community, but emotionally for a young patient, it is.”