While volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in his home town of Baltimore, Md., freshman Tyler Meagher was approached by a mother in a difficult situation. Meagher was tying pieces of fleece together to make blankets for children receiving care at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The mother was staying at the RMH while her son was going through treatment for cancer. She had recently lost a child to cancer, and now she had another child who was fighting for his life. She asked Meagher if her son could have a blanket and, of course, Meagher gave one to her. She knew the warm fleece and colorful design would be good for him. Meagher immediately saw the joy that the blanket brought to the family; a simple comfort that made the situation a bit bearable. It was that joy that served as the inspiration for The Welcome Project.
The Welcome Project was created in 2010 by Meagher and his friend Payton Sanchez. It is a nonprofit that provides a handmade blanket to every child staying at the RMH in Baltimore. The blankets have an easy, no sew assembly that allows young children as well as adults to make them. Two pieces of soft fleece, in a variety of patterns and colors, are tied together in a few steps to make the blanket.
Meagher had been volunteering at the RMH for five years. Every Sunday his mother would go to the RMH and volunteer, and eventually he began to go with her. He enjoyed interacting with the kids and started building relationships with them. So when he saw the impact he made on one family and the joy the blanket brought them, he knew he could do more to help out every family and child that comes to the RMH.
The RMH serves as a home-away-from-home for children who are being treated for illness and injuries across the country. They provide a place to stay and meals so the families can focus on healing their children rather than worrying over the cost of food and shelter.
Hospitalization is a trying time for anyone, especially children. The RMH, along with The Welcome Project, help make the experience a little better, and the blanket is something they can carry with them into the hospital.
“Our goal is to help create a welcoming atmosphere for the many children during their stay at the house,” says Meagher. ”The Welcome Project provides a handmade fleece blanket on the bed of each child upon their arrival at the house. Our hope is that these blankets will bring comfort to these children during their challenging time.”
The project is supported by donations and volunteers. Many service organizations hold blanket-making events for the project. Such a large amount of people are interested in contributing that the project has become self-sustaining, Meagher says. In the first year of its existence, more than 3,000 blankets were donated, which was three times the goal amount. Now, in its second full year, the goal is to grow the project to new locations while still making enough blankets for every child at the house.
While The Welcome Project is currently only in Maryland, Meagher has hopes that it will spread to the Carolinas and is currently working to make that happen.
“Being a part of The Welcome Project has impacted my life in ways I never imagined,” Meagher says. “I was able to develop leadership skills while helping some of the most deserving people I know. Being able to build relationships with so many wonderful children is an experience that I would not trade for anything. I hope I can bring what I have learned to High Point by helping The Welcome Project expand to HPU’s campus in the near future.”