Katelyn Abney says spending time with her Paw-Paw, driving in his truck to the local store where he would buy her juice and candy, are some of her favorite memories with her great-grandfather. When Katelyn’s Paw-Paw died in 2016, she didn’t know how to handle her grief. “I locked myself away. I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I was hurting not only me, but my family.”
Katelyn says when she did finally open up to her family, she realized she wasn’t alone. Launching Blanketing the World with Love, the 15-year-old Elkton, Kentucky teen first hand-tied a blanket for her grandmother who was recovering after open-heart surgery, and hasn’t stopped. Since then, the rising high school junior has handmade 184 blankets, customizing blankets for people across the country and all over the world who are suffering from an illness, have lost a loved love or are going through a difficult time. Bringing comfort and smiles to those in need, Katelyn is changing the world, one blanket at a time.
What inspires you to volunteer?
After I made that first blanket, God told me it was time for me to make a difference in the world. I am bringing happiness and love to those in need, and giving comfort in darkness. I want others to know that no matter what they are going through, they are not alone and somewhere, someone is thinking about and praying for them. I like seeing all the happy faces, the smiles and laughs that these blankets bring.
Why have you decided to serve others with a handmade item?
Volunteerism served by hand is different because if you make it with a machine, then you’re just making it. If you make it by hand, you’re putting in hard work and love that a person is going to receive.
Describe your role with Blanketing the World with Love.
As founder of Blanketing the World with Love, I monitor social media because people will reach out to us asking for blankets. Sometimes we’ll notice a family member has posted on Facebook about an event or something that happened, and we’ll ask if we can make a blanket for that person. I hand-tie and deliver the fleece blankets, one side is a design and the other side is one color. We’ve shipped blankets all over the world, including as far away as Japan, Hawaii and Canada.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
There was a special needs boy that took the school bus with me. I’d always smile and talk to him. I made him a blanket and gave it to him on the bus. This boy’s mom worked at our middle school, and she called me up to the office to thank me. She was crying when I arrived. She said after her son came off the bus with the blanket, he laughed and cuddled with the blanket all night. I think to that boy, the blanket meant that someone cared and someone would be there for him.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
We take so much from this world, and we don’t think that us taking hurts other people. Giving back not only helps us but sometimes helps the environment and others.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
The smiles, the happiness.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
Everything. I believe the smallest acts of kindness can make a change in the world.
When you’re not in school or volunteering, what do you do for fun?
I’m in the marching band so that takes up some of my time. I play the trumpet.
How can readers help?
Our volunteerism has continued through the pandemic and we’re still distributing blankets. We are dependent on donations and fundraising for blanket materials. Please visit our Facebook page for more information about how you can help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Katelyn Abney? Find local volunteer opportunities.