Blankets4Kids Helps Victims of Wallow Fire

By Karen Despain, The Daily Courier
Posted: Aug. 3, 2011

If Blankets4Kids founder Ron Campbell had his way, he would provide one for every needy child on the planet.

In fact, as part of the organization's outreach, a load of 100 blankets, each with a Teddy bear, scarf and hat tucked inside, went to children whose families were affected by the recent Wallow fire in Arizona's White Mountains.

"We decided that if we could do something to help the relief effort by providing security blankets, then we would do it,'" Campbell said. The Jesus First Church in Eager agreed to be the distribution point for the blankets, and the boxes were shipped out this past week.

In response to Blankets4Kids' offer to help, the Pastor Larry Hamblen replied, "Thanks so much for your mission and love for the children."

A few years ago, Campbell, who is retired, felt "inspired to give back to the community," specifically helping children who are less fortunate, he said.

His involvement with Project Aware, an organization that aids homeless men, gave him insights into this population.

When blankets became the focal point of the project, now an official nonprofit, Campbell solicited community support, and blankets, quilts, hats and scarves began to pile up.

While she folded blankets and sorted scarves and hats to send to Eager, volunteer Charlene Bracke noted the "women's church groups throughout our community knit and crochet" for Blankets4Kids. Their donations "are absolutely gorgeous, beautiful things," she said. "We would like to thank them." For the Wallow fire project, local State Farm agent Dennis Burks donated the bears.

The general public contributed blankets as well, in the many boxes that are set up around the area: JC Penney at Gateway Mall, the Safeway stores, Kmart, Sam's Club, the StoneRidge clubhouse and Walmart stores. JC Penney often contributes display items, such as bedspreads, when they no longer have need for them.

Various service agencies that are regular recipients of Blankets4Kids include the Prescott Area Women's Shelter (PAWS), Stepping Stones, Child Protective Services, Catholic Charities and the Head Start programs, Campbell said. This year, the organization gave 600 blankets to the area's law enforcement agencies to give to children in traumatic situations.

The Blankets4Kids team took a load to Ash Fork, and people grabbed them up, he said.

This past year, Blankets4Kids handed out 2,200 blankets. With the uncertain economy, Campbell expects the total need this year to be as much as 2,500.

Word about Blankets4Kids has spread to Phoenix.

Campbell received word in late June of a grant from Phoenix Suns Charities.

"Phoenix Suns Charities salutes the work you do to help make Arizona a better place for children and families. Together we are making a huge difference in our community," said Kathryn A. Pidgeon, executive director of Phoenix Suns Charities, in a letter to Campbell.