Susan Manfredi and Mary Anne Eagleston

April 19, 2021
Susan Manfredi led efforts to get handmade blankets to patients at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital. Photo by Molly Blake, UCHealth.

Handmade blankets bring cheer at holidays

T’was the Friday before Christmas when Susan Manfredi, manager of hospitality services and volunteer services for Highlands Ranch Hospital, called Mary Anne Eagelston in a panic.

“I told her to meet me at JoAnn’s Fabrics in 30 minutes,” said Manfredi. Eagleston, a longtime volunteer at Highlands Ranch Hospital, didn’t hesitate.

“I thought it was either an amazing sale or maybe some kind of craft emergency,” said Eagleston, a retired nurse practitioner.

Turns out, it was both.

Earlier that day, leadership at HRH approached Manfredi with an idea. They wanted to give a fleece blanket to patients who had to spend the holiday in the hospital. And could Manfredi recruit hospital volunteers to make them using simple, no-sew kits?

Mary Anne Eagleston, a volunteer at Highlands Ranch hospital, helped create more than 90 blankets for patients. Photo by Molly Blake, UCHealth.

“We didn’t really have time to think about it,” said Manfredi. “But we care for our patients and so off we went to the store.”

Almost five hours later, the duo had a staggering 13 shopping carts brimming with every imaginable holiday-themed fleece. All together, the fabric, including some with Llamas, santas, snowflakes, Christmas trees, elves, holiday lights, nutcrackers, candy canes, presents, even llamas on snowflakes, amounted to 280 yards.

“We had babies being born and in the NICU,” added Eagleston, “so we needed material to make infant-themed blankets too.”

At one point, store employees had to jump in and help cut the fabric, but Eagleston was very much in charge.

“She’s the crafty one,” admitted Manfredi.

The kits were doled out to volunteers and few staff members who offered to help. In a bizarre twist, the pandemic was actually a blessing.

“Everyone was home and didn’t have family coming in, so they actually had time to sit and make the blankets,” said Manfredi.

48 hours later, 96 cozy, soft blankets were folded, wrapped and ready for delivery.

“It was the most fun project I’ve ever worked on,” said Manfredi. And patients were delighted.

“No one wants to be in the hospital during the holidays,” said Eagleston. “This definitely brightened their spirits.”

Manfredi is already looking forward to next year, with one minor adjustment.

“We’re going to start a little earlier.”

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About the author

Molly Blake is a communications specialist for UCHealth. She joined the team in 2019. Molly spent much of her journalism career freelance writing for various publications including The New York Times, NBC news, alumni magazines and more. She is the proud spouse of a United States Marine Corps veteran, and wrote extensively about their life in the military.

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