For Stevensville High School student Kyla Paulsen, choosing a senior project designed to give back to her community was simple.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Kyla, who decided to donate blankets for the Montana Cancer Center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula – the same center where her grandma, Doris Paulsen, received treatment for ovarian cancer.
“When my grandma was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, she decided to give chemotherapy a chance. But she always talked about how cold she got during treatment,” said Kyla. “So, I decided to make her a blanket.”
This single blanket soon snowballed into her senior project. And 40 hours and 80 yards of fleece later, Kyla had created 20 colorful fleece blankets for chemotherapy patients at the Montana Cancer Center.
“Like Kyla’s grandma experienced, patients can get very chilly with all that fluid running through their bodies,” said Kristy Beck-Nelson, Regional Director of Oncology Outpatient Services at Montana Cancer Center, who helped coordinate Kyla’s donation. “They cherish the colorful, warm blankets.”
For many patients receiving treatment, blankets bring much more than warmth. “They bring comfort,” explained Kristy. “For some, something as simple as a blanket is an important part of their care and healing.”
Kyla’s cheerful and bright blankets are available for all chemotherapy patients to use during treatment at the Center. Or, if a patient really connects with one in particular, they are welcome to take it home.
For Kyla and her family, the blankets also played a role in their own healing. “Doris’ diagnosis was very serious,” explained Kyla’s mother, Donna Paulsen. “This project was really close to home.”
The family kept Kyla’s project rolling by contributing in one way or another. Kyla’s grandma kick-started the project by donating funds to help pay for fabric and other materials. Kyla’s aunt, Lynn Koeppen, acted as her mentor. During weekends, the Paulsens’ living room was transformed by yards of colorful fleece.
“Lynn and I worked on pinning and cutting, while Kyla worked like a maniac to get all the blankets put together,” said Donna. They used this time to talk and remember other families, like theirs, impacted by cancer.
Kyla’s grandma finished her last round of chemo in the summer of 2013 and remains cancer free. She joined Kyla, Kyla’s aunt and parents to deliver the blankets to the Montana Cancer Center. “It was really a big deal for her to come along when we delivered the blankets,” said Donna. “Her doctor and nurse were there and were so impressed with how great she’s doing.”
“Kyla's grandma and family are very special to us at the Montana Cancer Center. It means a lot that they trusted us with her care and want to give back to other families during their time of need,” said Kristy. “It’s is a wonderful way for Kyla to honor her grandma.”
“The whole experience has been so rewarding for everyone,” said Donna.
Kyla agrees. “For me, the coolest feeling was when we delivered the blankets to the center and I watched my grandma’s eyes water. It made me feel like I really did something great,” said Kyla. “It was awesome.”