Churchville Elementary School teacher Jennifer Brush’s second graders cleaned the tables and work surfaces in the room before lining up for hand sanitizer. These crafters were preparing to make comforting, relatively germ-free baby blankets for newborns at the University of Rochester Golisano Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Brush and her husband, Tim, have supported the NICU and the pediatric social work department since 1999 in memory of their late daughter, Taylor. Their fundraising helps local families as they care for premature and seriously ill infants.
When fellow Churchville Elementary teacher Amy Ciszak’s son Wesley was born prematurely in 2018, the two families helped raise over $9,300 for the NICU in his honor. Wesley, who spent 119 days in the NICU before going home, just celebrated his first birthday.
The two teachers coordinated this blanket project with help from Ciszak’s mother, Nancy Palermo, and student teacher Brooke Hare to give their students a way to learn about community service by connecting emotionally to vulnerable children and their families. They also were able to practice their writing and motor skills, and learn about health care.
The class took some time to discuss how difficult it is to have a baby in the hospital. They talked about how even small gifts, given in love, can make a big difference for people. Then, they worked together in teams to create the no-sew blankets. Students each wrote short personal notes of encouragement and caring to the families who would receive the blankets.
“One of the most important things we can do here is to help children develop values and grow strong character,” Brush said. “These kids sincerely want to help. We’re very proud of their efforts.”