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His name is Caleb Konopka.
This fall, he entered the 6th grade and wanted very much to be on his school’s student council. The only thing between him and the council was a required summer service project.
With the encouragement of his family, the young Konopka set out on a summer quest.
Caleb remembered his brother going into the hospital and being able to pick a blanket, a bright orange one, to keep him warm and comforted. After nine years his brother still has that orange blanket.
So Caleb, a 12 year-old student at Snow Springs Elementary in Lehi, thought he would make some blankets and take them to Primary Children’s Medical Center for his service project.
“He made eight blankets in the summer and dropped them off at Primary Children’s,” said Pam Konopka, Caleb’s mother.
The woman receiving the blankets at the hospital was kind and happy, but very concerned.
“These were the only blankets at the hospital and she would have to choose which eight children would get them out of a hospital filled with children,” Pam Konopka said. “Our hearts sank. Caleb didn’t want to have kids go without.”
Soon after that, a young man earning his Eagle Scout award dropped off 500 blankets to the hospital. Caleb, a quiet and hard-working young man, said he was going to donate 501.
Caleb’s Blanket Drive was born.
“He has spearheaded it and he is in charge, but knows he needs help,” said Pam. “He sees things differently than other kids. He looks at the big picture and can see it.”
On Friday, Caleb will deliver 1,301 fleece throw blankets to Primary Children’s Medical Center.
Getting to that point was not an easy task, but Caleb and his family, friends and the community stepped up to the challenge.
In late September, Pam and Caleb sent out a flier looking for odd jobs that Caleb could do to earn money to buy the fleece.
“Caleb cleaned garbage cans, pulled weeds and did other odd jobs and earned $8 an hour to buy fleece,” Pam Konopka said. “I became aware we were not going to make our goal. So we started a GoFundMe account.”
The very next day, a man from GoFundMe called Pam and said he was impressed with Caleb’s story and asked if he could push it to the media. This resulted in a TV spot, a few pieces on the radio and recognition from the Alpine School District.
When people heard the story, the donations started pouring in and they soon reached and surpassed their original goal of $4,000. They now had $6,000 available to buy fleece.
“It snowballed and we passed 501 blankets,” Pam Konopka said. “We set a new goal for 1,000 blankets.”
Pam said she saw fleece blankets on sale at Kohl’s and purchased several professionally hemmed blankets. She earned Kohl’s Cash in the sale and was able to purchase more.
“Walmart donated a cart full of fleece blankets,” Pam Konopka said.
The fleece blankets are 72 inches by 60 inches, about the size used for a twin bed.
Caleb said that no kid should go to the hospital alone, according to his mother. “These blankets have so many purposes. All hospitals need them.”
Caleb is shy and doesn’t like the limelight. He’d rather just do his project and let his mother be the spokeswoman, according to Pam. But he is always willing to accept donations of time, money and fleece.
One woman had a whole bolt of shamrock fleece she donated to Caleb. “There was a great outpouring of love from the community,” Pam said.
The project has also brought the Konopka family closer. Caleb, his brothers and parents sit around watching TV and work on the blankets together every night.
“Dad is the fastest, he can do one in about seven minutes,” Pam said.
With the delivery Friday, Caleb said he is going to move on to other items the kids need. The medical center is in need of coloring books, games, crafts and other things for children to do to keep them occupied.
Caleb is setting a goal for these next projects, but has not announced just what that will entail.
For now, Caleb did make it on the student council and is enjoying his last year of elementary school.