May 22, 2000

Susan Finch wraps kids in need with binkies of their own. 
(Courtesy Binky Patrol)

Alicia thought she’d been forgotten on her birthday. The sick teen-ager was in a Rhode Island hospital, and her working parents couldn’t visit. When a member of the Binky Patrol showed up and gave her a blanket to keep, she thankfully clutched her only birthday present.

Susan Finch started the Binky Patrol in Laguna Beach, Calif. “I realized that writing a check was too easy. I needed to get out of myself and get involved.”

Four years ago, she started the group that gives out free binkies – security blankets – with five volunteers.
That was 81,000 binkies ago. Today, the organization boasts a membership of more than 3,000 with 170 chapters across the United States

Roush, a Web designer and public relations executive, stitches and collects quilts, but now her time is spent giving them away. She is amazed at the security that the warmth and ownership of a blanket can give a child. “It’s something they can call their own when they are in a situation they cannot control,” she said.

Recently, Roush’s local group organized a Bink-A-Thon and collected 185 blankets in one day. Posted on the group’s Web site is a comprehensive accounting of similar drives that include donated blankets as well as quilts and afghans made by volunteers of all ages. The blankets are distributed locally at hospitals, shelters, to foster families, and through social workers and emergency personnel.

“They are for a kid experiencing trauma of any kind,” said Roush. “The binkies need only to be soft and machine washable.”

Schools have woven the blanket brigade into their curriculum, according to Roush. One school focused on pioneer quilts as they crafted one for a shelter, and a math teacher tied quilt piecing into her geometry lessons.

“You don’t need to know how to sew,” according to Roush. “Some chapters meet and quilt for a day, but many people simply drop off blankets.” In fact, much of the group’s momentum is supported by companies and individuals who donate not only money, but also their resources — from free shipping and Bink-A-Thon sponsorship to event organization and fabric donation.

“Many of our volunteers are women who’ve never had a job,” said Roush, who has uncovered hidden benefits. After working with helpers and providing them with the training they need to organize a local chapter or coordinate a Bink-A-Thon, Roush can see the newfound confidence in these volunteers.

“They’re getting job skills,” she said, and she’s surprised at their satisfaction. “I knew about the kids and what a binky meant to them, but I didn’t count on this part – that we all would be learning while we’re helping.”

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