About Creative Kindness
I read Andrew Bridge’s memoir, Hope’s Boy, in the late spring of my freshman year, 2008. It described the neglect within the foster care system. There was a scene in a detention center that described a child being denied of a simple blanket. I couldn’t sleep for wondering how many foster care children must suffer from neglect and cruelty like this in our country.
My mind wandered to the simple fleece blankets that my volleyball team had made for ourselves, just for fun, in our team colors. Was there a way to mass-produce similar blankets to provide a bit of comfort to foster care children? Once I learned that there are 80,000 such children in California alone, and that many of them have nothing but the clothes on their backs, I knew that giving as many of them as possible a blanket of their own was something I needed to do.
Drawing up very simple one-page directions for making the no-sew blankets was fairly easy. I began involving people of all ages in many different organizations. Women at the Ridge View Commons Senior Center pre-cut 300 blankets so the K-3rd graders would only have to tie the knots for the fringe. I had thirty women, aged 72-85, eager to help. Involving others became one of the most rewarding parts of the project, and soon volunteers appeared unasked.
Distribution was the next hurdle. Then the solution showed up in my driveway where I was organizing the boxes of blankets. Juan Castro, who’d come to trim our trees, told me about Foster A Dream where he volunteers. Every Christmas they entertain more than 1,200 foster care children from three counties at their Winter Wonderland, where Juan suggested I could give away blankets.
When I saw the gratitude of the children, so many of whom couldn’t believe that someone had made something for them to keep for their very own, I finally realized how much this project mattered. With that, my goals shifted. I wanted to involve as many students, parents, teachers, and community members as possible while making the project self-sustaining.
Subsequently, I created the Legacy Blanket Kits, each of which contains scissors and enough fleece and pattern pieces to make one blanket. With a “pay it forward” system, a volunteer not only completes a blanket but also restocks the kit with a new piece of fleece to pass along.
It’s been wonderfully gratifying to see the circles of compassion widening. The Legacy Kits have become by far the most successful aspect of the project. This is important because, with more than 500,000 foster care children in the system nationwide, there’s so much work to be done in numerous areas.
Sometimes, lying in my bed at night, I think back to my first encounter with Hope’s Boy. At the time I had no way of knowing the tremendous impact Bridge’s story would have on my life and, ultimately, on the lives of others. With thousands of blankets given away to date, I know that I want to continue helping the growing numbers of foster children in this country who wake up each morning without their parents and are brave enough to do their best on their own. These children have inspired me, and humbled me and set me on a path of service—local, national, and global—that I intend to follow throughout my life.
About Andrew Bridge
Andrew Bridge spent 11 years in Los Angeles County foster care, then went on to earn a scholarship to Wesleyan, become a Fulbright Scholar, Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Resident, and graduate from Harvard Law School. Andrew’s memoir Hope’s Boy is the true account of his life with his mother, a young mentally ill woman, of her efforts to keep and care for him, and of his life in foster care without her. As an adult, Andrew has spent his career bettering the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable children. His work has garnered coverage in Time Magazine, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Reader’s Digest, PBS, as well as in newspapers, radio, and television across the country.
For more information visit Andrew’s website
About Sarah Williams
Sarah Williams started Creative Kindness while in high school after reading Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge. Sarah currently attends Scripps College.