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It was supposed to be a simple student council service project. But when 12-year-old Caleb Konopka learned the eight blankets he’d crafted for a donation to Primary Children’s Hospital wasn’t nearly what was needed, he grew even more determined to meet the demand.
“Hospitals are not very enjoyable when you’re sick — they’re kind of scary,” Caleb said. “I thought that would be a good way to give a child comfort.”
He was particularly empathetic having remembered a time when his brother was in the hospital for a week when he was younger. At the time, he was given an orange blanket.
Konopka’s mother, Pam, said a conversation with a worker launched her son into a far more ambitious project.
“We were talking to the care coordinator at Primary Children’s and she said, ‘You know, I have a really hard job — I have to go upstairs and I have to choose eight kids because these are the only blankets in the hospital,’” Pam Konopka recalled.
Caleb said he learned from the worker that apparently the largest blanket donation of its kind in the past had been 500 blankets.
His new goal came to mind immediately — he wanted to donate 501.
“It would be amazing if we could get over our goal,” Caleb said. “It would also be cool if we could start getting more than our goal.”
The boy began in September to gather materials for blankets while also seeking out donations. He also began to make brownies, pull weeds and clean out garbage cans to help raise funds.
He and his family started a GoFundMe* account as well to help generate money for the acquisition of materials.
As of Monday night, he had reached 450 blankets with the help of family and friends, and he was looking to raise additional funds and complete the last several dozen.
“Caleb has just never given up,” Konopka said. “He’s always just strived to do one more, one more, one more and, you know, we’re so close now — it’s within our grasp.”
The 12-year-old acknowledged having doubts along the way.
“Many times I thought that — I wasn’t going to make the goal,” Caleb said. “When you’re helping people, that determination in you is kind of like, ‘OK, you’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to keep making blankets for these children.’”
He said he is now hoping to make a mass donation in time for the holidays.