FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – We’ve learned a lot in recent weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to make drastic adjustments to our everyday lives. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, about our friends and family, and about society as a whole.
One of the most important things we’ve learned is that heroes are everywhere. Whether it’s the healthcare professionals keeping us safe on the frontlines, the pharmacists making sure critical medications are available, or the grocers putting food on our tables, we’re coming to realize that many of the services we’ve taken for granted are, in fact, essential.
Some of those heroes make blankets for sick children. They cut and sew fabric, then safely package and deliver those blankets to hospitals across the country, so that children can feel a sense of love and comfort at time when they need it more than ever.
They’ve been doing so since 2012 – and they continue to do it today – as Binkeez for Comfort.
For the past eight years Binkeez for Comfort has been supporting critically ill children and their families with a mission of “donating bespoke, certified safe blankets to infants and children struggling with a life threatening illness, a developmental or mental disorder, or a severe burn.”
Their blankets, made of lead-free, hypoallergenic materials, literally wrap children in hope and healing – powerful forces at a time when everything can feel overwhelming for both the kids and their families.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced strict social distancing guidelines and work-from-home orders in recent weeks, it would’ve been easy for Binkeez to shut up shop for the time being, and get back to their mission of bringing hope and healing when those guidelines are relaxed.
But now is a time when hope and healing are needed more than ever, particularly for hospitalized children who might not be able to see their families for weeks or months because of increased safety precautions.
“Our first (priority) was making sure that our volunteers and families were safe,” said Susan Posterro, who founded Binkeez for Comfort with her mother, Lynne, and who currently serves as COO. “Second was to make sure that we were continuing to do everything possible, because more than ever, comfort is needed.”
“This time when your child is sick in the hospital is so isolating all on its own, (so) to get a blanket is so important,” added Lori Keller, a sewing volunteer and mother to cancer survivor, Livi. “You just feel so isolated, so alone, and just so scary.
“Then you put what’s going on right now on top of that – I can’t even imagine the stress level and the anxiety level of our families and our kids right now. It’s such a small gesture that can ripple into someone’s journey and into someone’s soul so much. It’s so, so important.”
The belief that Binkeez’s services would be necessary during this pandemic has been borne out in recent weeks, with shipments sent to hospitals in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, and North Carolina. Binkeez even received a brand new request from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, whom they’d never worked with prior.
“They knew about us and asked if we could please get blankets for their patients,” said Posterro. “I think it’s because of our relationship with our hospitals – they know how we operate, and the reputation Binkeez has with the handling of our blankets. They knew that this was going to be a safe option for emergency comfort for their patients.”
That safety, of course, has been the top priority. While Binkeez quickly made the decision to continue producing and delivering blankets after social distancing guidelines went into place, they knew they needed to focus first on the safety of both their patients and their own volunteers.
Posterro noted that Binkeez has always operated with the strictest of safety measures, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) best practices for handwashing and surface disinfecting, while offering blankets with limited exposure prior to being gifted to a patient.
But there are other factors to consider now, as well. The blankets themselves are safe, because the virus can’t live on the fabric. It can, however, live on plastic for 2-3 days, so blankets are no longer being wrapped in plastic. The shipment of 100 blankets heading to San Francisco was produced and packaged in cardboard boxes last year, before COVID-19 arrived in the United States.
“The first person that will be touching these will be the personnel in the hospital,” noted Posterro.
The safety of Binkeez volunteers is assured by keeping the staff as small as possible. Posterro said she visits headquarters just once a week, while Keller sews and Donna Towner – a cancer survivor who continues to volunteer despite recently undergoing surgery of her own – packages, all while practicing social distancing guidelines and limiting contact with each other.
“We’ve never allowed mass volunteerism just because of what’s at stake,” said Posterro. “I cannot say enough about this team and this crew.”
Playing a smaller, but nevertheless important role, was New England Revolution goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell, who visited Binkeez on a pair of afternoons in late February. Caldwell helped cut fabric and package blankets, which helped Binkeez fulfill a request for emergency bedside comfort for an entire floor at Boston Children’s Hospital within 12 hours.
“He is a class act. Class act,” Posterro said of Caldwell. “He was with us for two afternoons, and he was excited to come back, but then this all happened. He packaged blankets, he put away blankets for us in our sewing studio, and he got fabric cut.”
Caldwell will no doubt be involved when the Revs and Binkeez team up once again in the future – highlighted by the annual Box Car Movie Night hosted at Gillette Stadium – but for now Posterro and her team are focused on approaching everything one day – and one blanket – at a time.
“We can’t wait for the night where the entire team and their spouses and partners cut fabric, but that will happen when it’s meant to happen,” said Posterro. “What’s most important is that everybody follows what our governor is sharing, and that we take care of our families and be grateful that we have a roof over our head and food on our table, and do what we each can do in this time for our communities, for our world.
“For us, it’s one blanket at a time. We’re doing that safely, following rules, then getting home and staying home.”
For those inspired by the work Binkeez for Comfort is doing in these unprecedented times, and who’d like to help the cause of providing comfort and hope for critically ill children, Posterro said the best way to do so is by making a donation HERE.
Because of strict guidelines volunteer intake is currently on hold, and requests like those from San Francisco incur an increased shipping cost, making donations critical at this time. For those who’d like to donate, Posterro noted that administrative and operating expenses are just 10 percent, so 90 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to the production and distribution of blankets.
For more information on Binkeez for Comfort, visit their web site HERE.