Quilted with Love

Non-profit organization donates quilted blankets to make the hospital feel more like home

Sheila Ethier knows what it’s like to be a patient in a psychiatric ward.

“I was in the hospital in 1996 and I had come home from the hospital and I was always cold and achy,” says Ethier, a registered nurse. “I was going through my closet and came across a quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was a young girl. I looked at the quilt and remembered my childhood days when I was happy. I covered myself with the quilt and thought maybe I will come out of this and feel well again. As I closed my eyes, I felt a sense of love and comfort. I said to myself, ‘This is a blanket of love and others with mental illness will benefit from receiving their own quilt.’”

Ethier founded Blankets of Love the next day. It is a non-profit organization that provides quilts to patients in hospitals facing mental health challenges. The program started at the University of Alberta Hospital and now provides quilts to hospitals Canada-wide. Blankets of Love has donated more than 5,500 quilts since then. At least 2,000 of them were donated during the pandemic.

One early supporter of the program was Dr. Roger Bland, the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta throughout the 1990s. Ethier met Dr. Bland when she founded Blankets of Love.

“I remember Dr. Bland was so warm and genuine when he learned of the program,” Ethier says. “He invited me into his office and was just very pleased that something good was happening for the patients. He was such a kind, wonderful man.”

Blankets of Love recently received a generous donation from the Roger and Riet Bland and Family Fund at Edmonton Community Foundation for operational costs. The funding will go towards completing quilts that are donated unfinished, and will cover the cost of about 25 quilts.

“Even a small donation goes a long way in helping someone’s life,” Ethier says.

This article comes from the Fall 2022 edition of Legacy in Action. Read the full issue.