Religious education students at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Ashland are pictured with the blankets they helped to make for the local chapter of Project Linus. Blankets were blessed by Dcn. Tim Mika. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Since 1995, the nonprofit Project Linus has delivered more than 9 million blankets to American children suffering from illness, trauma or other needs. With their tagline “providing security through blankets,” blanketeers, or volunteers who handmake these blankets, are active in all 50 states.

In Wisconsin, 13 chapters are active. These are run by volunteers who organize efforts based on local needs and collect blankets for distribution within their communities. Most of the counties within the geographic boundaries of the Diocese of Superior are covered by existing chapters.

Besides providing love and comfort to children in times of need, Project Linus also seeks to provide service opportunities for individuals and community groups.

Terry Beirl, a member of Ashland’s Our Lady of the Lake Parish, coordinates the chapter covering Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer Counties. She got involved with Project Linus in 2021 after seeing an article about the Superior-Duluth chapter. Wanting a volunteer opportunity, she started a chapter for her area. Beirl then enlisted the help of parishioners and religious education students at her parish working with faith formation coordinator Anna Richardson.

One of the ways the parish helps is through a Lenten service project for the youth. For a second opportunity, families gather after a Sunday Mass to make blankets together. Beirl commented that it’s “wonderful to see how Our Lady of the Lake has taken a lead in this.”

She said how sharing the faith can connect to everyday things. As Catholics serving the needs of their local community, it can be extension of that faith. For Beirl, one of the beauties of Project Linus is that it’s not connected directly with any church; “We can do it with all kinds of groups.”

The original impetus for the project was a woman in Missouri who was inspired to make blankets for her local children’s cancer center. It had grown beyond children with medical needs, and Beirl has connections with her local child and welfare services for the county and local Native tribes. She expanded into Sawyer County last year when Tamarack Health encompassed both Ashland and Hayward medical facilities.

Beirl said the OLL faith formation students look forward to the project every Lent. They like the challenge of seeing how many blankets they can make and knowing that they go to local children in need. She added that this “labor of love” has also produced many, many beautiful hand-quilted and -knitted blankets, often by nameless individuals.

Other groups that have worked on blankets as a joint project have included area nursing home. Residents who work on the blankets sign their names to the card that will accompany the gift.

Beirl also said the nonreligious nature of the organization “allows for seamless connections” with the community and involves people of all ages.

While it’s “very rewarding” work, it’s also selfless because the end result is usually not experienced. Only rarely does she get any interaction with the beneficiaries.

To date, Beirl has delivered 351 blankets, giving them directly to the local organizations and health centers that distribute them.

With a background in fundraising, the coordinator role came easy to Beirl. She was asked to raise $500 annually to help cover costs associated with blanket-making materials. These are usually the kits for fleece no-sew blankets for a group blanket-making event so that the volunteers don’t have to provide anything beyond their time and hands.

Her biggest challenge has been finding the extra space to store these materials or the blankets as she is collecting them throughout each month.

“What’s wonderful about it,” Beirl said, “is that you get out what you put into it … How many connections are you willing to make, calls to see what the needs are and try to see how you can sustain the supply?”

The majority of blankets go to local hospitals. Besides providing a steady supply for child and welfare services, she ensures larger-sized blankets are available at regional homeless shelters.

Many individuals that know of her involvement with Project Linus give Beirl blankets directly, but she also receives a lot through anonymous drop-off sites at the quilt shops in Ashland and Hayward.

Beirl encouraged anyone wanting to make blankets or organizing a blanket-making event with their parish to contact the chapter coordinator nearest to them. Contact information for chapter coordinators is available at For persons interested in more information about starting a chapter, she suggested visiting the “Become a Volunteer” page under the About tab on the Project Linus website.