By Katie V. Jones
5:22 PM EST, December 20, 2012
Grumbles and sighs of exasperation were heard coming from the group of third-grade boys huddled around the square piece of pirate-printed fleece.
Comments such as "I can't do this" and "This is hard" punctuated the boys' struggles to tie knots in the fabric's fringes.
"I'm getting an awful lot of 'can'ts' from you boys," said Kerry Wolf, a parent volunteer at the table. "I think you can. It's like tying a balloon. We're having a water balloon battle and don't even know it."
The boys, along with their fellow students at Runnymede Elementary School, were taking part in the school's fourth annual Project Linus project Dec. 19.
A nonprofit organization founded in 1998, Project Linus provides blankets for security, warmth and comfort to children who are ill, traumatized or in need, according to Connie Richman, coordinator for Project Linus in Carroll County.
"The blankets go to Carroll County Hospital and a lot of the hospitals in the Baltimore area," Richman said. "It really applies to anything from serious illness to death of family member, divorce or bullying."
The blankets will be distributed in early January, Richman said.
During the course of a week, students in each grade at Runnymede took time from their schedule to cut, tie and make this year's goal of 150 blankets. Families, staff members and community members donated money to purchase supplies for the project, including the large variety of colorful fleeces for the blankets.
"Each class will make anywhere from two to seven blankets," said Lavonne Fiore, school counselor. "Each grade level decided when to make them this week."
Jenn Warner's class was hoping to make 14 blankets. With plenty of parent volunteers helping, Warner was confident the goal would be met.
"I prepared four ahead of time," Warner admitted, of having some fringes ready to tie. "They (the students) have been helping me all week. helping cutting in the morning. Today's the big day."
Sitting at a table tying knots, Aliza Ayres, 8, compared the production to the holidays.
"I feel like we're at a workshop and you're Santa," Aliza said to Warner. "We're all the elves."
Tying knots was a struggle for many. The first year Runnymede made blankets, two pieces of fleece were tied together at the fringes. That was fairly easy. However, Project Linus later requested that only one piece of fabric be used, Fiore said, which changed the process somewhat.
"Two was too heavy for kids with equipment on them, so we're just doing one piece," Fiore said.
The easiest fringes to cut are the thinnest, according to Caitlyn Miller, 8, who has been making blankets every year since kindergarten, she said.
"I'm getting really good at it," Caitlyn said. "Small is easy. Big is hard."
At the end of the week, the school will have an assembly to unveil the blankets and provide a check to Project Linus with any money left over from purchasing supplies.
"They get so excited," Warner said, of the students' reactions during the assembly. "You hear them cheering at the unveiling."
"I think this is fabulous," Richman said, of Runnymede's participation. "It is not an easy task for the school to plan and execute these types of events. The whole school is involved. It is wonderful children are helping to comfort other children."
Last week, while the third grade students were very busy cutting and tying to prepare for the assembly, the school band strolled the halls playing holiday tunes that added to the festive spirit.
"It's a wonderful program," said Leah Offutt, a third-grade teacher. "The kids really get into it. One of my kiddos just asked if they could skip recess to do this."
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