Students create warm gifts for sick children (Waukegan, Ill.)

Date: December 10, 2013

Lake County News-Sun

December 10, 2013

By Frank Abderholden

Waukegan Plus Project Linus

Judi Goldman of Project Linus poses with Waukegan High School students and one of the blankets they made for critically ill children. The students are (from left) Stephen Ogaldez, Elias Castrejon, Heather Rhea, Emilio Sandoval, Gustavo Casique, Robert Hall, Adrian Stanford, Natiera Manor, Quinton Wesley, Olivia Wence, and Juan Roias. | Photo by Paige Beutlich

Alternative high school students in Waukegan reached out to make things better for sick children when they agreed to make fleece blankets for Project Linus, which distributes the handmade items for critically ill children.

“The kids were very excited to make the blankets and to give back, so we’re looking into other ways that we can help the community,” said Teacher Paige Beutlich of the Ombudsman Waukegan Plus, which is contracted by Waukegan Public School District 60 to teach students who weren’t successful in the traditional school setting, giving them extra support in academic, vocational and social skills.

This is the first community service project the class has done, although they also made holiday cards to send to troops overseas as part of a national effort by the Ombudsman Educational Services company.

“This was the first plausible idea that we could think of that didn’t require an after-school commitment or asking the community for donations,” said Beutlich, who added that the students work daily on how to work as a group and this project gave them a lesson in communication and team work.

“They knew that what they were doing was going to make a difference in the lives of others, so they were incredibly positive about the entire process. Everyone participated and no one complained,” she said.

Juan Rojas, 17, of Waukegan, said, “It wasn’t work as long as it was for a good cause.” His classmate, Elias Castrejon, 18, of Beach Park said “we all worked together as a group,” meaning his blanket-making team members Olivia Wence, 16, and Lesli Arevalo, 18, both of Waukegan.

“I thought everything had to be done perfectly,” said Heather Rhea, 18, of Waukegan, “If they weren’t all even, you had to fix them,” she said. She picked a pink blanket to work on, “because the pink one would make her happy,” she said of the girl who would eventually get the blanket.

Emilio Sandoval, 15, of Waukegan, said it was “a little bit” hard trying to cut the strips in the right place to make a knot, but it wasn’t too bad.

Natiera Manor, 17, of Waukegan, said she was excited to make the blankets. “I like being around kids and helping kids,” she said.

Quinton Wesley, 16, of Waukegan, said they knew when they got done with the blankets someone was going to be happy, but more importantly, the blanket recipient. “They know that someone cared, but it wasn’t just for the blanket, but that you cared,” he said.

Judi Goldman, chapter coordinator for the Chicagoland area Project Linus who picked up the blankets last week, said the blankets the Waukegan students made will be loved.

“Thank you so much from the kids who are going to get your blankets and from myself,” she told the class. “They really got it,” she said of the students, “they really did a good job.”

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