January 24, 2004


Sue Sperling of Chanhassen is the latest Minnesotan to sign on with the Binky Patrol, volunteers who make small, washable blankets for children in distress.

Since founding the South-West Metro Chapter in October, Sperling enlisted church friends, Girl Scouts and the Key Club service group at Chaska High School to meet her goal of 300 binkies for Minnesota kids by Jan. 33. They’ve surpassed their goal.

Volunteers for the Binky Patrol include, left to right: Aaron Sperling, 7; Jenna Mady, 8; Sara Johnson, 6; and Taylor Johnson, 8

“It looks like we’ll easily reach 400,” said Sperling, 41, a hairstylist. Before starting her own chapter, Sperling made binkies for another Minnesota chapter helping people in fire-ravaged California.

In November, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office in Chaska became the first benefactor of the South-West Metro Chapter. Sperling delivered 11 binkies to Sheriff Bud Olson. In December, she delivered more than a dozen to a shelter in Aitkin, Minn.

“When I met with Sheriff Bud Olson he shared his concerns about the financial condition of the poorer counties in the state, and we discussed the possibility of servicing them,” Sperling said. “The 300 doesn’t seem like a lot when you have 87 counties, but they’ll go to whatever sheriffs need them the most.

“We want to continually supply these sheriffs’ offices; so, to keep this program going we need contributions and donations from the community at large,” said Sperling. “This is one of the most important groups we’re going with because it’s frontline.”

When two children from the Elk River area died in a fire in November, they were buried in binkies made by Minnesota’s North Star Chapter.

“Although this is a very sad story, it is one more reminder that what we do touches people’s lives in so many different ways,” said Cindi Rose, of Zimmerman, North Star’s founding coordinator. Rose got involved with the group shortly after she and her husband, Tom, adopted older children with special needs.

“When they came through our door they came with few personal belongings,” Cindi Rose said. “I was trying to find a way to help, and that’s when I discovered the Binky Patrol.” Many of the blankets made by Rose’s chapter are donated to Downy Side, which finds permanent homes for older children; also to the Minneapolis Ronald McDonald House.

Sperling, also a mother of a child with disabilities, said the blankets are like a hug.”

“To give a child a blankie is a big thing,” she said. “In fact, I was a blankie child.”

Sperling’s church, Living Christ Lutheran in Chanhassen, provides meeting space and financial support for her chapter. Several parishioners volunteer to sew. They meet the third Saturday of every month for sewing, and a pot-luck. Scott Harris of S.R. Harris/Fabric Outlet in Brooklyn Park provides discounted material.

“This is to a one-time deal, but ongoing for our charity,” said Sperling. “Thanks to Mr. Harris, we’re able to stretch our funds further and service more children.”

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans donated a third of the material being used for binkies for the sheriffs’ offices. They’ll be presented to Olson on Jan. 31 at the Chanhassen Library.

Sperling said she couldn’t have realized her dream without a lot of help: students from Zion Lutheran School in Cologne, Minn., who helped tie blankets; and teacher Kathi Latzke, who oversaw the effort. Sperling’s 7-year-old son, Aaron, also helps.

Collecting fabric were girls from St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Excelsior, members of Girl Scout Troop No. 140. Led by Jill Papa, they collected 80 yards of material. Chaska High School student Melissa Palmer organized the Key Club participants and accompanied Sperling to S.R. Harris to cut 60 yards of fabric donated by the school. In December, an Anoka neighborhood group, led by Lisa Walker, made 24 blankets for Sperling’s chapter.

Olson said partnering with the South-West Metro Binky Patrol complements other programs his office sues to provide comfort for families and children in crisis.

“I grew up with a blanket and a little stuffed monkey,” he said. “Those things bring great comfort to children. Just having a young person drag one of those blankets around gives great satisfaction that we’re doing something meaningful in the lives of children. It makes them feel good.”

Binky Patrol, which provides small blankets for children in distress.

History: Begun in Laguna Beach, Calif., in May 1996 by retailer Susan Finch to provide blankets for children at a battered women’s shelter. The organization has more than 160 chapters and 13,000 volunteers nationwide.

Minnesota chapters: South-West Metro, call Sue Sperling at 952-937-6986 or email her at mnasperling@prodigy.net; North Star, call Cindi Rose at 763-241-8910; Duluth, call Louise Colalillo at 1-218-724-2057; Warroad, call Lorri Wong at 1-218-386-3532.