By Gwen Roley
Sue Sullivan believes every baby should be snuggled in a blanket – no matter what obstacles face them and their families.
Late last year, the 74-year-old Birch Bay resident quilted 52 baby blankets and donated them to a charity called Project Linus.
Since 1995, Project Linus has donated more than 7 million blankets to children who are seriously ill or in traumatic situations across the U.S. Sullivan, a quiltmaker, made one baby blanket per week last year to donate to the organization.
Sullivan became interested in Project Linus after watching her foster son struggle to start a family. He considered adoption and while he sorted through the process, she was struck by how inaccessible it seemed despite the many children who were left without a family.
“The application fees alone are around $1,000,” Sullivan said. “Raising a child is already so expensive, so if you adopted, you’d already be starting off on in debt.”
Eventually her son was able to start a family with the birth of his own biological child, but Sullivan still found herself worrying about the children who were living without families or with health problems.
“I asked God what I could do to help these children and he told me that I could give my blankets I make to them,” Sullivan said.
Project Linus started in 1995 when a woman in Denver decided to start making blankets for patients at the Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Center, according to their website. Since then, the charity has grown and now has chapters in all 50 states.
The closest chapter to Birch Bay is in Skagit County, so Sullivan took her blankets to Two Thimbles in Bellingham, who passed her donation on to Project Linus representative Terry Beaver.
Sullivan has been donating her baby quilts to Project Linus for 10 years, but for 2018 she decided to set the goal of making one blanket per week for 52 weeks. Sullivan’s daughter Julie St. Germain also lives in Birch Bay and agreed to help.
“Two Thimbles is one of the only places you can donate to Project Linus so we really wanted to get the word out about them,” St. Germain said. “So many women in the area have gotten into quilting so we thought this would be a great outlet for them to donate some of their projects.”
The Skagit County chapter of Project Linus has donated a total of 4,222 blankets in all the years it’s been active, Beaver said.
“We have a few people who make large donations but usually it’s only one or two blankets at a time,” Beaver said.
In 2018, they received 302 donations, with Sullivan’s contributions being one of the largest.
Sullivan spent years as a homemaker and moved around the country with her husband for his work. Now, Sullivan said she is “retired with her husband.” She made her first quilts while she was in her 30s and they were living in Montana.
“The stitches were so big, you could run a truck through them,” she said.
She started out making large, full-size quilts, but found she enjoyed making baby quilts more because they were smaller and didn’t take as long to sew. After the ambitious 52-quilt project, her friends have started giving her a hard time about how disorganized her quilting room has become.
“They always ask me how I find anything in there but I say right back to them, ‘When was the last time you asked me for anything in there and I haven’t been able to find it for you,’” she said.
Sullivan also volunteers at the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham, but hasn’t found another outlet for her prolific quiltmaking outside of Project Linus. Sullivan usually donates three to five quilts to them each year, she said.
“I actually taught my granddaughter how to sew one summer while she was visiting me so she could help me make the quilts to send to Project Linus,” Sullivan said.
After this rigorous round of quilting, Sullivan is still planning on donating more quilts to Project Linus.
“It all depends on my time and skills,” she said.
Sullivan had a stroke in 2009 that paralyzed much of her left side. While she has recovered, she said she never really bounced back with some loss of feeling still bothering her, which can make it difficult to sew blankets. Her hope is to continue making blankets for as long as she can.