Angela Wilhelm

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Project Linus

I recently photographed Rita Bragg and wrote an article on her Project Linus chapter for The Sandusky Register's Sunday Showcase.





     The soft, cuddly covering of a blanket provides powerful protection for anyone bundled underneath the rectangular shield. To a child, a blanket can be more than just textile, bringing comfort as a daily companion.

     Legendary comic artist Charles Shulz illustrated the emotional attachment in his “Peanuts” character Linus. Charlie Brown’s buddy has inspired a national organization with the trusty blue blanket he dragged with him through almost every anecdote. With almost 400 chapters across the country, Project Linus has provided more than 4 million handmade blankets to children who are in need, seriously ill or traumatized.

     When Monroevile resident Rita Bragg’s nephew, Leon Runnels, was born premature, she was touched by an addition to the baby’s bed at Toledo Children’s Hospital. “Someone had given him a blanket, and I just thought that was the nicest thing,” Bragg said. Then at 2 years old, Leon lost a battle with liver cancer and passed away. “When I heard about Project Linus, I decided to do this in his memory,” Bragg said.

     She now brings comfort to children in Erie and Huron counties through her own chapter of Project Linus, which she started in April. “I’ve run across so many giving, talented people in this area — it’s just a warm feeling,” Bragg said. “I want to give back.”

     Bragg is giving back that warm feeling as a “Blanketeer,” teaching local groups how to make blankets, and inspiring 4-H groups and Girl Scouts to get involved.

     Although her chapter is new, Bragg had already made 50 blankets by June 27 to present to Camp Fearless, a free bereavement camp for children who have lost a loved one, hosted by Fremont’s Hospice of Memorial Hospital. The room buzzed as 37 children excitedly waited for each of their names to be called to choose their new blanket — a blanket Bragg hopes will comfort them through their loss.

     After they deliberated over the row of blankets, each child took their new possession back to their table and celebrated it in their own way. Some simply rubbed their cheeks across the soft fabric. Others fluffed them into the air to get a better look of their blanket’s colors. Ari Sours, 6, spread her blanket out onto the floor and curled into a ball on top of it. Most wrapped themselves from head to toe.

     “It was so worth all the late nights sitting up sewing,” Bragg said after watching the childrens’ reactions. “It was all I could do to fight back tears listening to some of the comments from the kids.”

     Anyone can help by making a blanket to donate, providing materials, or monetary donation to the national chapter. To get involved, contact Rita Bragg at 419-706-7797, email her at or visit

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Staff photographer at the Sandusky Register. Videographer at Follow me on instagram @angwilhelm and @sanduskyregister

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