Olivia Allen, 12, of Reiles Acres, North Dakota, a sixth-grader at Cheney Middle School, has organized blanket-making events that have produced more than 600 fleece security blankets for hospitalized or traumatized children in need of comfort. In 2009, Olivia started experiencing seizures and was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy. During one of several hospitalizations, she was handed a blanket. “I know how good the blanket made me feel. A blanket makes you feel like you are at home,” Olivia said. The blanket Olivia was given at the hospital came from Project Linus, an organization named after the blanket-toting character in the Peanuts comic strip. It was started by a Colorado woman who, after reading a newspaper article about a 3-year-old girl who had endured months of painful treatment for cancer with the help of her special blanket, decided every frightened child should have one. Remembering how good that blanket had made her feel during a stressful time, Olivia began volunteering with the organization, and started her own organization in 2018 called “Warm Winter Hugs.”
Olivia’s mother helped her promote her blanket-making events on social media. In addition to the volunteers who participated in her events, many people also donated fleece for blankets, the leftovers of which Olivia used to make over 100 dog toys. In 2017, she started asking friends and family to give her fleece or money instead of presents on her birthday so that she could donate more blankets. Olivia is also using social media and her role as Miss Pre Teen Prairie Rose International 2019 to encourage people across the country to become involved in providing a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need. Every time Olivia sees a child hug one of her blankets, “It puts a smile on my face,” she said.