Local Kids Knit to Help Comfort Others During Pandemic

While Michelle Zhu knows first-hand that there’s no comfort like the love from family and friends when you are sick, the rising senior at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School wanted to bring the next best thing to lonely hospital patients during the coronavirus pandemic: her knitted creations.

“I was hospitalized over a year ago, and the thing that got me through that stay was constant visitors,” Zhu says. “But due to visiting restrictions surrounding COVID, hospital patients don’t have that luxury. I wanted to send them something to let them know that someone was thinking about them.”

But Zhu didn’t stop there. After collaborating with fellow members of her school’s knitting club, Zhu decided to form a charity, Knitting ILY, whose mission is to make a difference through charitable projects and service acts that involve fiber arts such as knitting and crocheting.

Each month, the now 30-plus members, made up of high school, middle school and elementary school students, take on new community projects. Recently, they knit “snuggles” comfort blankets to provide a more comfortable environment for rescued animals at the Hugs Society, a nonprofit charity dedicated to homeless and displaced animals.

“The animals were calmed by the soft blankets we made, and some grew so attached to them that they were taken to their new homes after they were adopted,” Zhu says.

The members of Knitting ILY meet weekly on Zoom to discuss upcoming projects — such as the wheelchair blankets they’ll create for Heartland Hospice – and host knitting lessons and meet ups. Zhu is eager to bring on more volunteers who are looking for ways to spread love while maintaining social distancing.“With knitting, there’s care put behind every single stitch,” Zhu says. “Our creations aren’t made in a factory. There’s a person behind the piece, and that’s why people cherish the items so much more.”

Those who are interested in volunteering or donating money or supplies can visit their website.

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