Students Donate Blankets in Honor of Newtown
WETHERSFIELD - Amidst the outpour of nationwide support that followed the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, residents of Connecticut, where the tragedy hit particularly close to home, rose to the aid of the grieving Newtown community.

       The organization Peace, Love and Blankets, a group of high school girls in Wethersfield, also wanted to help, but the town, citing an excess of donations during the weeks following the tragedy, actually stopped accepting items. That didn’t deter them.

       Peace, Love and Blankets, has, as the name implies, made a name for itself donating homemade blankets to disaster victims--at home and overseas--homeless veterans, and individuals fighting cancer, amongst others. Their latest campaign, 26 Acts of Kindness, sent 26 blankets to a first grade class at The Rawson School in Hartford.

       “This has been a great experience,” said Alex Hoffman, a Wethersfield High School senior and organization member. “I’m glad I got the chance to help so many people in so many places during my high school career.”

       The group did not stop there, however. Within the same week that they made their donation to The Rawson School, they gave 42 blankets to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

       “I really feel like we have made a difference in people’s lives,” said Megan Lemieux, another organization member and high school senior. “When people are going through a hard time, whether it is from a natural disaster, a death in the family or a horrific tragedy, I feel like our blankets and words of kindness can make things a little bit better. I think we have touched the lives of many people all over the world.”

       For Hoffman and Lemieux, along with fellow seniors Kristen Humphrey and Jillian Massaro, it marks the end of a run that started with a hobby. Hoffman and her sister Lian, a member and underclassman, developed a passion for sewing blankets, one that was passed down from their mother, Beth. Since the group’s launch, the girls have made more than 400 blankets and donated to people in four states and seven different countries. After Hurricane Sandy, they mobilized to deliver 50 blankets to the ravaged community of Breezy Point.

       “Being able to change so many people’s lives has been life-changing for me as well, and it has really opened my eyes to how important it is to give back to those less fortunate than us,” Massaro said.

       The seniors are moving onto college, but for the group itself, the legacy is still in the making. The departing members said that they will stay in touch as advisors to the underclassmen that will be taking their place at the reins of the project.

       “They are great role models,” Lian said. “I would also like to thank the parents for all the time they put in to helping us organize everything. Since the rest of the group is going to be graduating, more people have been recruited to be a part of this group. It is going to be different but I still look forward to making more blankets and helping out those who are in need, locally and even around the world.”