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Knit together with love: craft group makes blankets for preemies

SCV Senior Center craft group makes blankets for premature babies

Posted: March 16, 2009 12:59 a.m.
Updated: March 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia resident Carmen Baker starts making a baby blanket for premature babies born at the Children's Hospital, Monday morning.

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The hands that clutch the blankets are new and frail. The hands that knit them are weathered and experienced. Though they never touch, both are kept warm by a new knitting project at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.

Led by 89-year old Clarice Secrest, members of the senior center's crafts group have made premature babies their focus, creating 14" by 17" crocheted or knit blankets delivered to the Los Angeles Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Started just a month ago, more than 50 blankets have already been distributed. Most are created by members during the weekly craft meetings held each Monday at the senior center, while some are donated by those knitting at home.

Secrest was inspired by a friend, who told her she had started a similar venture in another town. "I'm a grandma, so I immediately thought that's something we should do," she said. "It's just a warm feeling that we're doing something to help someone."

It's not the first time Secrest and the nine crafts members have stepped up to help those in need, according to Robin Clough, SCV Senior Center director of recreation and volunteers. Previous blanket recipients over the last 10 years have included wounded veterans and victims of domestic violence.

"I call it stitches of love," Clough said. "When you see the blankets, you feel the love that went into making them. They're so cute, soft and warm.

"It really makes a difference to the parents of these babies. We've already gotten letters back, expressing what these blankets mean to them."

Colors for the blankets go beyond traditional blues and pinks into purples, yellows, and many other hues in designs ranging from stripes to starbursts. Secrest estimated each blanket takes approximately two evenings of knitting to complete.

The festive gifts brighten up the NICU in more ways than one as Linda Drexel, volunteer coordinator at the children's hospital, illustrated.

"Parents want their children to have a sense of normalcy about them while they're here," Drexel said.

"Things like these blankets do that - they relieve the sterile atmosphere of the hospital. Nurses like them, too. They get very attached to their charges and want to give them a sense of normalcy."

Albert Garcia, gifts and special events coordinator at the children's hospital, passed out the colorful, hand-knitted offerings over the weekend. He said it was a nice surprise for the parents, who take the blankets home with them after being discharged.

"Getting a gift for no apparent reason made them very curious," Garcia said. "They asked me who made them and how did they know?"

"It's great morale not just for parents, but for caregivers and employees, too. It elevates all of our moods."

The project elevates the spirits of the knitters, too.

"It's a family group in there," Clough said. "They're socializing and helping each out much more than just learning how to make blankets."

"At a time in life when they could be ... receiving, these seniors are out there trying to give."

For more information on the blanket knitting group or any other Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center activities, call (661) 259-9444.

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