Every year, about 30,000 children enter Michigan hospitals for treatment, and a Farmington Hills-based charity hopes to make that experience a little less frightening.
Founded by Michigan native Nicholas Kristock, Fleece and Thank You provides kits to volunteers who make simple fleece blankets that brighten up hospital rooms all across the state. What’s more, each blanket comes with a recorded message from the giver.
Hospitalization is a “traumatizing experience” for a child, Kristock said. “We wanted to make sure we also gave them a friend.”
Kristock was living in Australia, playing soccer and volunteering at a children’s hospital, when he realized how cold and sterile the rooms were. He wanted to do something to help, something unique.
“I knew the world doesn’t need more of the same charity,” Kristock said.
Then his sister, a pediatric oncology nurse at Mott Children’s Hospital, sent a text encouraging him to make a blanket for a sick child. That prompted Kristock to call other hospitals.
“Every one gave me the same answer,” he said. “They dramatically change the room, and we never have enough.”
Volunteers cover the cost of the kits, assemble the blankets, and record their videos before returning the completed project to Fleece and Thank You. Blankets are then distributed to 28 Michigan hospitals.
Kristock said the reaction from kids and their families is always heart-warming. One family called the blanket their “best friend”.
“No matter how old or young you are, a blanket is a comfort. When we enter a room with a blanket… they feel that little slice of hope. It’s color, comfort, connection.”
Kits, which cost $25, are assembled and distributed from the 5,000-square-foot warehouse on Crestview Court in Farmington Hills. Kristock described the community response as “amazing,” with people walking in to volunteer.
A project that started in his parents’ basement is now a nonprofit connected to about 100,000 people who touch the blankets every year. The nonprofit also partners with groups that serve adults with disabilities.
“I’d never built a nonprofit from scratch, so I had no expectation about growth,” Kristock said. “It was definitely a surprise, and I am grateful that we’ve been able to build so quickly. We’ve really identified a need.”
Fleece and Thank You is always looking for individuals or groups to make blankets. To learn more, visit fleeceandthankyou.org.