With the end of the semester in sight, the Castleton softball team took a break from the gym and Calvin Coolidge Library to join the Rutland Intermediate fifth grade with a volunteer effort to benefit patients of The Foley Cancer Center.
For the last five years, Rutland Intermediate’s Kristen Ramey has been coordinating The Blanket Project with her team of fifth grade classes to make and deliver blankets for patients receiving cancer treatments. Three years ago her husband and Castleton Softball Head Coach Eric Ramey added the Spartans to the equation.
In its most successful year yet, The Blanket Project resulted in 91 blankets at the hands of 85 Rutland Intermediate and Castleton Softball volunteers that were delivered to Foley Cancer Center on December 13.
“It’s just grown every year,” said Kristen. “It’s a good lesson to the kids about giving back and that not everything is about receiving.”
The two-day project succeeds in not only raising awareness around the devastating disease, but also adds a deeper value to the relationships between Castleton University and the Rutland community.
“Cancer affects all of us. And it’s great to be able to give back to a community that has given so much to us,” said Castleton Junior Pitcher Taylor Paquette.
All of the materials used to make the blankets are donated by the Rutland Intermediate classes, their families, and the Spartans. According to Paquette and her teammates, Sami Carlo and Myah Ondreyko, the blankets bring out the students' personalities and this year’s designs produced everything from tractors to stars and stripes, music notes, and teddy bears.
“It gives the patients a piece of the fifth grade because they bring in what they like,” Eric said.
Going beyond the design and delivery days, both groups agreed that it’s the flood of cards, letters, and thank you’s from people who receive the blankets that makes the experience so powerful.
“Getting to read how people felt when they received the blankets shows that such a small gesture can mean so much,” said Carlo.
According to Kristen, working with the softball team opens the door to some of her students’ first conversations about college and what it means to be a collegiate athlete.
“It’s great for the kids to make the connection with the team,” she said.
Kristen said she brings her class to Castleton University at various points of the academic year, including once for a clinic with the softball team. She added that after working with the team her students tell her about coming to Castleton athletic games or to other campus events.
According to Eric, the fifth grade is the driving force behind the project and the relationships it creates, he said his team considers themselves fortunate to play a role.
“It’s incredibly rewarding for our players to spend time with the fifth graders working on the blankets for a much greater cause,” he said.