It was a warm and fuzzy day for students at Weigand Avenue Elementary School as the Hugs in a Blanket club from Taft Charter High School traveled from Woodland Hills to the Watts campus to present each of the 524 students with a colorful, hand-crafted fleece blanket.
The club was founded by Taft senior Camille Ng who – as an orphan adopted in China when she was 7 months old – has a special appreciation for the compassion of others. A member of the Taft varsity soccer team, she was seeking ways she and her teammates could help a community in need.
“I have always had a love of crafts and doing things with my hands,” Ng said. “I was spending time making these soft blankets and giving them to friends and family and started to think that maybe there were others who could benefit from them more.”
Inspired by stories of professional athletes who volunteer for charity, Ng approached her teammates last January with the idea of forming Hugs in a Blanket, which meets weekly to create crafts for kids in high-poverty neighborhoods.
Her mother, Pat Ng, spoke of how the partnership between Taft and Weigand – which goes back several years – helped the students take their efforts to new heights.
“In September, we learned that there were over 500 kids here who may benefit from nice warm blankets for the winter,” she said. “The girls got to work and raised over $3,000 to fund materials for the blankets in only a couple of months.”
The club members met regularly and spent hours assembling blankets for the Weigand students. The elementary school coordinated a special event in their auditorium, complete with festive holiday decor, where the club members attended with their principal, Daniel Steiner, to distribute the blankets to students one-by-one with help from “Santa” along with parents and other volunteers.
“These girls are true champions,” Steiner said. “They have been working incredibly hard for weeks and weeks, and now they are getting a great reward as they see the smiles on these kids’ faces.”
Steiner proudly pointed out that as students with some of the highest grade point averages at Taft – and as the team who last year won the city soccer champion for the first time in the school’s history – the students were achieving on multiple levels.
“They are champions both academically and athletically,” he continued. “And, now they are champions of community outreach.”
Their championship was reflected in the reactions of the grateful Weigand students, many smiling widely as they wrapped themselves in their new gifts.
“I can’t wait to take this home to sleep with at night,” said first-grader Marquez, smiling. “It will help protect me from monsters.”
As many other students also expressed excitement about having a soft, new warm blanket to sleep with at night, second-grader Jaylin was feeling charitable.
“I want to give this to my cousin,” she said. “I think she would love to have it as a present.”
Jaylin’s classmate, William, could barely contain his excitement about his new red and black “Monopoly”-themed blanket.
“This is my favorite game,” he said. “I always wanted a blanket just like this, and now I got one. I can’t believe it! I am going to keep it wrapped around me all the time…especially at Christmas.”
Weigand Principal Joseph Prendez was equally enthusiastic about the excitement that Hugs in a Blanket brought to his students.
“The positive energy here is just phenomenal,” he said. “We are so grateful to the students and faculty at Taft and the continuing spirit of generosity and helping others. Our school has a high population of students in need, and the outreach they’ve provided not only helps address those needs but also teaches the high school students important lessons about how to be good citizens and show charity for the less fortunate.”
The popularity of Hugs in a Blanket is already taking off. Students at Hamilton High School – who know the Ng family through a network of adoptees and their parents – have started their own chapter on their campus.
“I just wanted to get something started, and I am inspired by the growth that I’ve seen already,” Camille Ng said. “As I get ready to move on to college and the future, I hope that this tradition is continued by others for years to come.”