Last year in June, on the ECHS Service Day, I had the privilege of spending a day at LakeView Nursing home. When we were there, I got to chat with Ms. Del Regno, who coordinates activities for the people who live at LakeView. She shared how very limited some of the residents are in what they can do, especially those who are in advanced stages of Alzheimer. She then proceeded to pull out some sensory blankets and gave them to some residents. It was obvious that they enjoyed feeling and fumbling with the items on the blanket. Ms. Del Regno explained how these blankets fill a need for some residents, yet because they are rather expensive, they are not within reach for everyone. I said: “Maybe we can make some at school.” It was an opportunity to serve.
Mrs. Rudd and I opened a SOAR to create sensory blankets. SOAR classes, “Student Opted Academic Resource” provide opportunities for students to take on a leadership role in the creation of a new class or club. Right from the beginning of this SOAR, we were joined by one of our amazing students, Stephanie Zhang, who took great ownership of the project. She and another student, Jemin Son, came every Friday. Stephanie communicated with Ms. Del Regno. We searched online to get ideas for what to put on the blankets. It was difficult in the beginning because none of us are very familiar with the needs of people with advanced Alzheimer. We learned a lot in the process. Ms. Culp graciously allowed us to use her sewing machine and we set to work. We sewed a base for 4 blankets and then started adding repurposed items to them. Buttons, bracelets, old socks-turned-into-pockets – anything with a ‘feel’ to it. Other students joined us for one or two SOARs. They made bracelets and pompons and all of these have been added to the blankets.
Recently, we went to LakeView to bring our gift to Ms. Del Regno and the residents. We were able to complete 4 blankets, completely made from repurposed materials. It was so very beautiful to receive their appreciation and to see how some of the residents enjoyed moving their hands over the blankets. Some of them are completely or partially blind, and most have very limited (if any) command of language. But they can still feel and Ms. Del Regno explained again to us how they enjoy doing that, and can sit for extended periods of time, just moving their hands around. To feel. And their feeling gave us all the feels!
Petra Van’t Slot