Grace Blankets provides linens, adorable blankets, and comforting supplies to NICUs in hospitals around the country. Through blanket drives, donations, and the help of Piper’s Pod (their donors and volunteers), Grace Blankets helps nurses add some personality to a baby’s bed and helps parents experience a small bit of normalcy. Grace Blankets is also a way for Tara to honor the lives of her two lost babies: Piper Grace and Jett Matthew. Learn more about the Jarvis family and how to get involved with the important cause here!
What is life like in a NICU for those who haven’t spent time in one?
Grace Blankets is named after my daughter, Piper Grace. I learned when I was pregnant that she wouldn’t survive. We expected that she would be born, take a few breaths, and pass very quickly. When Piper was born, however, her breathing was better than anticipated and she ended up living for 10 months in the NICU. The extended stay families learn what NICU nurses need, you start to pick up on all the little things. The night nurses give the babies a bath at night and then get to select a few blankets to make the bed with. For a lot of NICU nurses, this is their favorite part because it’s the one opportunity for them to personalize the baby’s space.
Why are blankets in such high demand in NICUs?
A nurse told me that I could bring my own blankets for Piper as long as I washed them myself. Since I couldn’t dress Piper in any normal baby clothes, I jumped at the chance to give her a piece of home in an otherwise sterile environment. I had a bunch of nice, cute blankets that I would keep by Piper’s bed, and started to realize what a commodity these blankets were. I started getting in trouble at the hospital for the amount of blankets I had. The nurses asked me about the nice blankets, and I knew I wanted to provide the hospital with some so that nurses and parents could have the same comfort of having control over something they were giving to their baby. I had been blogging about the experience of Piper being in the NICU, and my blog readers wanted a way to help. Grace Blankets started then, in the middle of Piper’s stay.
Can you tell me about what you provide to nurses and parents?
Instead of giving blankets just to the parents, I wanted to make a donation to the hospital staff so that they could have options to choose from. Having fun blankets in a hospital is not a priority, but they are so important. All NICUs use linens as a basic blanket, so we send linens everywhere to help maintain the hospital’s stock. Every nurse also gets to have some fun picking out unique blankets and bring some joy to families in such a scary time. Anything that has a tag on, I will accept and send to the proper place. We also have a special set of supplies that we use for bereavement. We provide those parents with a separate set of expensive, nice blankets that the baby is swaddled in for the final time and the parents get to keep them. There’s also a special soap and lotion we use for the final bath that smells amazing, that way the smell lingers on the blankets that the parents get to take home. It’s such a horrible moment, so we try to add as many small comforts as possible.
What has the experience of starting Grace Blankets been like for you?
As a mom who has lost two kids, it’s amazing to know that my babies’ names are still being remembered. After Piper passed, our son, Jett Matthew, died of a genetic disorder soon after birth. It was a very different experience than with Piper and we learned even more about how much these little pieces of comfort matter to loss parents. In a world full of negativity, it’s been great to see such a positive response to our work and see how far we’ve been able to grow. We’re now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, supply six hospitals in Kansas City, send blankets all around the country, and even have an endowment to pay for NICU nurse scholarships in Kansas City. Realizing that people care about you in your darkest moments is the best feeling, and I feel so fulfilled getting to spread that feeling to other parents going through similar situations.