In November of 2011 when her 19-year-old cousin Katie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, sixth grader Meghan Vizzard felt she had to do something to help.
So the then 12-year-old made a simple pink and yellow fleece blanket to help Katie feel a bit cozy during her very uncomfortable nine weeks of chemotherapy treatments.
“I wanted to make her something that was warm and comforting,” says Meghan, now 17 and a high school junior. “After she told me how much it helped her I was very happy and I wanted to do it for other people too.”
So in March 2012, Meghan, of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, began making blankets for other people as well — starting with 118 she created with the help of Katie (who is now cancer free) and sports teammates and donated to two area hospitals that treat cancer patients. As word spread on social media of these special blankets, a cadre of volunteer fleece blanket makers of all ages sprouted up at other schools, in churches, scouting groups and swim clubs. She later started her nonprofit Cozies4Chemo, which has since made and given out more than 6,000 blankets to adults and children in hospitals and nursing homes in 49 states, Canada and England.
“Thank God for Meghan, what she has done is amazing,” says Nicole Haney, 43, who works with kids who have cancer at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
She and her colleagues have joyfully handed out more than 1,000 blankets to kids receiving care.
“They are little and they are sick and it’s difficult,” says Haney. “The blankets give them a sense of security, it’s something that is happy, something that they love. Just to see the expression on the kids’ faces — it is just pure joy and happiness.”
Says Marleen Schwartz, 46, of Berlin, New Jersey, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the summer of 2015: “The blankets you get at the hospital are not warm, not comforting and to have something warm and snuggly in a place that is not so warm and snuggly is nice.”
When she returned to work, Schwartz, a seventh grade teacher, oversaw a school blanket-making project that created over 25 blankets for donation.
“And to think it all started with one blanket,” says Schwartz. “It is amazing. For somebody so young to be so empathetic and loving is a rarity.”
It was Meghan’s youth and spirit of giving that enchanted Mary Tresgallo’s 87-year-old father when he was being treated for multiple myeloma in 2016 at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Westchester.
After receiving his royal blue fleece blanket and told the idea for the comforting gift was started by a 12-year-old, “I can’t tell you what this meant to my father, he was just beyond himself, over the moon,” says Tresgallo, whose dad died in January of 2017.
“What my father loved the most was that there was someone out there so young,” she says, “and cared enough to care for others.”=