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Blankets program spreads warmth
The Educational Talent Search/Upward Bound program of Arizona Western College will make winter a little warmer for many children with blankets they helped produce this past month.
The AWC program, designed for children in grades 6-12 who are first-generation college-bound students, teamed up with K.I.D.S. (Kindness Is Doing Something) to make 85 fleece blankets for the K.I.D.S. CuddleKit Closet initiative, said Terry Shove, Talent Search director.
This is the first time the two organizations have collaborated, Shove said Wednesday.
"This way our kids learn how to give back to the community. Also, we're always looking for a new community service project we can contribute toward. And community service participation is an excellence reference on their resumes."
Talent Search/Upward Bound students from Wellton Elementary, Gila Vista and Fourth Avenue junior highs, Antelope, Yuma, Cibola and Kofa high schools participated.
For the past six years, K.I.D.S. was involved in the Pediatric CuddleKit program. This effort provided pillowcases filled with stuffed animals, coloring books, and activity items for all children in the pediatric unit of Yuma Regional Medical Center, according to Kristen Sheppeard, K.I.D.S. co-director.
"From that program we decided we wanted to expand to schools. It's not just low-income kids we help. We wanted to reach out to any kid in need of kindness: kids who lost a parent, kids going through a divorce, even kids being teased."
So after receiving some seed money in 2008 from TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey through her Oprah's Big Give Contest, the School CuddleKit program was launched last fall and has since provided 250 kits.
Sheppeard makes presentations all over Yuma County and in Winterhaven about K.I.D.S. services. Children referred by teachers, counselors and school nurses will receive the blankets made by Upward Bound.
In addition, K.I.D.S. will hold its second annual Kindness Makes a Difference Day on Dec. 5. This will be an "over the top" winter-theme day for 150 children referred by their teachers and counselors. Each child will receive new shoes, a hooded sweatshirt, a fleece blanket and a Christmas gift.
Donations are still being accepted. For more information, go online to www.cuddlekit.org.
Sheppeard said she and partner Julie Evans were motivated to start K.I.D.S. because they were both teachers and saw firsthand the lack of nurturing some children had.
"We wanted to reach out to children that really needed extra kindness and support from the community. All our programs have a pay-forward piece where we show kids they need not just receive but give back to others."