After the attack on Columbine High School almost 19 years ago, each student and staff member at the school received a homemade quilt donated by people from Colorado and beyond. Mothers with children at the school remember how their children wrapped themselves in the blankets, drawing security and comfort knowing that people they didn’t even know cared about them.
When the families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, experienced their own heart-wrenching tragedy in February, many of those same Columbine mothers from a local church in Littleton felt their hearts breaking as they relived feelings of helplessness, anger and sorrow.
The tragedy hit even closer to home than expected. Gordon and Pam Voorhees, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Littleton, have a granddaughter who attends Stoneman Douglas High School. While she made it out safely, two of her friends and fellow church members did not. The Littleton congregation decided to do something to help the youth in the Parkland LDS congregation know that many people care about them.
“We remembered how much the quilts meant to our children, and decided to make fleece blankets for each of the youth in the LDS congregation where the three girls lived, one of whom was killed in the shootings,” said Jane Savage, who attended and helped organize the project.
Church members quickly organized the project. Fabrics in cheerful prints and solids that “looked like Florida” were purchased with donated funds, and some fabric was donated by a person involved with the Columbine/Aurora Theater support group. All donors asked to remain anonymous.
“The inspiration for the cuddle blankets came from our hearts breaking for these kids in Florida, wishing that no one would ever have to endure another shooting,” said Savage. “I remember the disbelief that such a thing could happen here, and realizing that the innocence of children had been stolen, and there was so little that anyone could do to relieve all that anguish.”
An email notice was sent to all the women in the congregation, inviting them to help put the blankets together. With one day’s notice and on a holiday weekend, about 30 women, men and teenagers, as well as neighbors who just wanted to help. Some had children or grandchildren who had attended Columbine, but many did not.
“It’s a relief to our aching hearts to be able to actually do something, instead of just feel bad for them,” said one of those who turned out to help.
Tying the fleece blankets took about two and a half hours. The 26 blankets arrived in Florida on Saturday, so they could be distributed to the youth in the congregation on Sunday. Notes written by youth in the Columbine area were included and expressed love and prayers for their counterparts in Florida.
Story by Babzanne Barker
Photo by Allison Barber