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Handmade blankets bring security to hospitalized children

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Central City resident Cheryl Kresak crochets nearly 60 cozy coverings

by Patty Unruh

It’s scary to have to go to the hospital, even more so when you’re a kid. During the holidays, it can be a little sad as well, so you need all the reassurance you can get. That’s why it’s so important to cuddle under a warm security blanket. Cheryl Kresak, a long-time resident of Central City, has been working for the past year and then some to bring comfort to children who are in-patients due to illness or injury. On Thursday, December 20, Cheryl and her friend Betty Donovan took nearly sixty full-size blankets crocheted by Kresak to the pediatric ward at Denver Health Hospital and presented them to a very grateful staff.

Kresak did it because she wanted to help others. “We all have kindness in our spirits and some kind of God-given talent. What good is it if we don’t share it?” she says. “I was just working all the time and felt I needed to make a difference. What could I do? Well, I knew how to crochet.”

Kresak decided to make blankets for ill and injured children. She began her crocheting project on November 1, 2017, with the goal of making 101 blankets.

“One hundred didn’t seem like enough.”

Although she had not quite reached her goal by this Christmas, she wanted to go ahead and donate what she had already made. She plans to keep on until she reaches the magic number.

Kresak had tried making some contacts at other hospitals to donate her handiwork, but met with only polite interest. Donovan, former director of Gilpin County Human Services, decided to help. She called Denver Health and was invited to bring in some samples. So, she borrowed six of Cheryl’s blankets without revealing what she was going to do with them and took them to the hospital. There, she met with Robin Engelberg, Program Manager at Denver Health Foundation, who was delighted with the beautiful blankets and arranged for Kresak and Donovan to bring the blankets to the hospital. Kresak excitedly packed her creations in four heavy-duty trash bags and made the trip down. It was an uplifting experience.

“What a wonderful day! I was almost in tears of happiness. Everyone was so welcoming and appreciative. I can’t wait to get started on next year’s!”

Engelberg and M. Christine Sullivan Martinez, RN, Nurse Manager of Pediatrics, gave the women an hour’s tour of the pediatric floor. There was only one child in the ICU, which was a good thing, but nurses said it was the calm before the storm – there are a lot of injuries over the holidays. As it happened, the pediatrics floor has a blanket room and all inpatients receive one, but the stock was very low. When Kresak and Donovan arrived with the mountain of crocheted comfort, it was perfect timing.

“It wasn’t quite a Christmas miracle, but a good thing. Betty and Robin orchestrated the whole thing. I just made the blankets,” Kresak says humbly.

She didn’t do this project for the recognition, but for the warmth and security of the boys and girls. Indeed, the kids and their parents will love these ultra-soft, cozy blankets. They are weighty and feel like getting a caring, protective hug.

This labor of love has been a true sacrifice. Each blanket cost Kresak between $50 and $60 to create, and she has spent more than $3,000 in time and materials. She works with a specialty yarn that she buys at Hobby Lobby for $4.49 per skein; the thick, soft strands are made of 100 percent polyester and don’t fade. It takes eight to 12 skeins of yarn per blanket, depending on the intricacy of the border. She buys from the same dye lot to maintain consistent color in the individual blankets.

Kresak is an artist, and yarn is her medium. Like a painter with tubes of tint, she has hundreds of skeins stored in her home, all organized by color: blue, purple, white, pink, yellow, green, gray – even brilliantly-hued yarn called “Skittles,” like the candy.

Each blanket is an original. Before she begins, Kresak studies the yarn till a pattern jumps out at her. She can read patterns, but likes making her own.

“I use the same stitch for the body on all the blankets, a half double,” she explains. “I make a couple different borders, a more basic one suitable for boys and a sort of frilly one for girls, called a picot.”

When each blanket is completed, Kresak sews on a label with care instructions. The label reads, “Hot off the Hook by Cheryl Kresak, Central City, CO. Dry clean or machine wash cold, no bleach or iron. Air dry or tumble dry low or no heat.”

It takes her three or four days for each blanket, crocheting during every spare moment. Kresak has two kitties – who, incidentally, like playing with the yarn – so before making her donation, she laundered the blankets to remove any cat allergens.

She admits that crocheting in the summer is pretty warm work, because she is always covered with a blanket. Summer or winter, though, she finds stitching is stress-relieving.

Kresak reveals a life-time history of crafting. When Kresak was only four years old and living with her family in Chicago, her Aunt Sue taught her to crochet. Sue babysat Kresak and her brother, and crafts were a way to keep two active children profitably occupied.

“I started with a little pot holder, then progressed to a scarf, then a blanket. It just kept growing!” Kresak recalls.

She also expresses a lot of admiration for her mom, Connie. A working housewife and mother of two, Connie managed to fit macramé, embroidery, and quilting into her busy schedule.

“She is the one who afforded the materials and allowed me to be crafty the whole time,” Kresak fondly relates.

Kresak was sidelined a few years ago when severe arthritis in both hands made crocheting very painful. Fortunately, a skilled doctor was able to help.

“Two years ago, I had surgery on my left hand, and it is now bionic. Afterward, I was able to crochet again, and I haven’t stopped!” she relates happily.

Like her mother, Kresak is one very busy, energetic lady. She works at Annie Oakley’s Emporium and Skye Cottage Bed & Breakfast, both in Central City, and runs her own salon. She crochets rather than just watching TV when she needs down time after work, and even in spare moments at work. She says her bosses at Annie Oakley’s are kind enough to allow her to crochet when there are no customers to assist or anything else to do at the moment.

When Kresak is not busy crocheting blankets, she also makes sweaters and Colorado hats. These are available for purchase at Annie Oakley’s.

Earlier this year, to help defray some of the expense of crocheting the blankets, Kresak started a GoFundMe page and received about $300. She is grateful to all who contributed.

If anyone would care to help Cheryl reach her goal of 101 blankets, they could bring ten or 12 skeins of Baby Bee Adore-A-Ball yarn, available at Hobby Lobby, to Annie Oakley’s Emporium, 135 Nevada Street in Central City. Money donations of $50-$60 per blanket would also be appreciated.

In addition to making her blankets, Kresak started making a difference as a volunteer at The Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg, a refuge for lions, tigers, bears, and other large rescued carnivores. She quotes a saying she learned at the refuge.

“Saving one animal may not change the world, but surely for that animal, the world will change forever.”

That motto is reflective of Kresak’s passion to help the children with her special blankets. Surely, they will make a difference in the world of each sick or hurting child this holiday and in the years to come.

 

 

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