Mattituck sisters team up to create unique blanket drive

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Leah Santacroce, right, and her sister Sarah with many of the patches they want to turn into blankets for sick children.

Hospital rooms are known for being cold and dark, so even something as simple as a hand-knit blanket can provide much needed warmth and comfort to patients.

That’s exactly how Leah Santacroce, now a junior at Mattituck High School, felt when she had an unexpected hospital stay in seventh grade.

When Leah came down with an unforeseen illness and ended up needing a life-saving surgery, she was treated and recovered at Cohen Children’s Medical Center at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

Her mom, dad, and younger sister stayed at the Ronald McDonald House next door. Ronald McDonald Houses are located all around the world and provide a “home away from home” for the families of hospitalized children. They are part of Ronald McDonald House Charities, a nonprofit.

Leah’s mother, Ellen, said that when the family first got to their room at the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park there were a few homemade items sitting on the bureau. Among them was a blanket made up of many different squares of crocheted material.

“It was the first thing we brought to the hospital,” Ms. Santacroce said. “It was a whole crocheted blanket, hand stitched. It must’ve taken hours, with many people contributing many squares. I couldn’t believe they made it and then gave it away to us.”

The blanket meant a lot to Leah, and she has it on her bed to this day.

“The blanket was just really comforting and made the hospital room homey because it wasn’t really very homey [before then],” said Leah, now 16.

This past spring, when the Santacroce girls took a beginner knitting and crocheting class at Altman’s Needle and Fiber Arts on Love Lane in Mattituck, Ms. Santacroce thought of an idea to help give back. Leah’s 11-year-old sister, Sarah, dubbed the project “Captain Blankie.”

Captain Blankie is a blanket drive that asks local residents to knit or crochet 7-by-9-inch rectangles and drop them off at Altman’s. The squares are then crocheted together to create a blanket, much like Leah’s, to be donated to The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island.

Though the project only began this spring, the charity venture has already been very successful. Altman’s currently has a basket full of donated squares, as well as a full blanket that one customer knitted. An employee said they have enough squares right now for about four blankets.

“After she proposed the idea, I started mentioning it at our open stitch groups and, soon after ,projects started pouring in,” said shop owner Kate Altman. “Community is really important to me, and the fact that this project is connected to someone we know is great. We’re going to have a little party one evening to crochet all of the pieces together into blankets.”

The Santacroce family and the Altman’s staff have been hanging up and handing out fliers about Captain Blankie throughout the community. The girls even worked together to draw a character to represent Captain Blankie, a girl with a crocheted cape. Sarah also came up with a slogan, “Comfort is on the way.”

“I thought of the idea of ‘comfort is on the way’ because it’s like we’re coming to the rescue with blankets,” Sarah said.

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