Students share warmth at hospital

UI Health blanket gifts

Student volunteers handcrafted blankets for hospital patients. ­(Photo: Vibhu Sreevatsa Rangavasan)

Demetria Neal wiped away tears as she exited a chemotherapy room at the University of Illinois Hospital.

She had just finished presenting a handmade fleece blanket to a patient and couldn’t help but get emotional.    

“I didn’t think it would hit me this hard,” said Neal, a freshman in neuroscience. “To know they’re strong enough to keep fighting and won’t give up, that really touches me.”

The blanket Neal gave away was one of 131 handcrafted by student volunteers over the last few months. Volunteers also constructed 103 craft kits and 177 cards to help brighten up patients’ time in the hospital.

“The impact is huge,” said Spencer Long, coordinator for the fleece blanket project and associate director of Student Leadership Development and Volunteer Services. “The little things that we can do to help make that time there a little enjoyable go a long way.”

In total, 227 students contributed 290 hours of their time to assist in the effort.

Rosie Goggin, a freshman in rehab sciences, was among them. Goggin chose to craft blankets during her summer orientation, and was on hand to present them.   

“I’ve never volunteered before,” Goggin said. “This is such an emotional thing for my first volunteer opportunity. It was kind of overwhelming, but really nice to see [patient’s] faces and appreciation.”

Before Goggin, Neal and other UIC representatives gave out the donations Oct. 25, UI Hospital officials thanked them for their commitment to service. Kinga Mateja, manager of volunteer services at UI Health, echoed the same sentiment afterwards.

“It’s such a priceless feeling when you see young people make time to help others and put a smile on patient’s faces,” she said. “I have no words for how grateful we are.”

It was the second consecutive year UIC students have devoted their time toward the project, which has helped many Chicago families and individuals in their time of need.

“The chancellor says it all the time,” Long said. “We’re not just the University of Illinois at Chicago, we’re the University of Illinois for Chicago. Every time I hear that, I feel it’s one of the best missions for this office. We need to be here for Chicago.”

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