Western Hills, Day One partner to ease trauma of sexual assault

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At Western Hills Middle School, the faculty and staff have been partnering for training with Day One, a sexual assault and trauma center that provides support to victims from the ages of preschool through adults of any age.

The training the staff has received has helped them to better understand the trauma that follows an assault and to be able to recognize the warning signs that may be present in their students.

Now, thanks to the collective efforts from the entire school community, they’re also helping to ease the trauma that the victims are suffering, even in a small way.

Faculty member Suzanne Murray has started making hand-sewn weighted blankets, which will be donated to Day One. She found out what a difference the blankets make in providing comfort to the victims of assault, especially with children, and also learned that the high cost of the blankets is often a stumbling block that prevents those who need them from being able to have them.

“The blankets range in price from about $140 to $160 each and for many that is cost-prohibitive,” Murray said. “I don’t ever want anyone, especially a child, to not be able to have this comfort just because of the price.”

Murray decided to take her own sewing skills and put them to good use, hoping to make a difference for others by making weighted blankets for the children at Day One and donating them. During the process, she very quickly understood why so many can’t afford the blankets.

“The weighted pellets are extremely expensive,” she said. “A ten pound package is $25 and a 50 pound package is $109 on Amazon. Add in the cost of the fabric, and suddenly it becomes a very expensive project.”

Despite the cost factor, Murray still wanted to proceed and she began to make the blankets, paying for all the materials out of her own pocket.

As she considered the relationship that WHMS had with Day One already, she thought of her colleagues and decided to approach her principal, Tim Vesey, to see if she could present an idea to them.

“I came up with an acronym – TWO: Teachers Wrap Others, as a way to identify the project and to ask them for donations that could be used for the blankets,” she said.

Vesey said yes, and at a faculty meeting Murray presented her TWO weighted blanket project.

The response was overwhelming. Between the staff’s monetary donations and donations of fabric as well, Murray has been able to put nearly $800 into her project and to create 38 blankets of varying sizes, including full-sized, neck wraps and lap throws. The school’s student council has also made a sizeable donation.

“I’ve been able to order 186 pounds of pellets and 70 yards of fabric, and some of our faculty members who sew have made blankets too,” she said. “Each blanket requires approximately one to one and one half yards of fabric, depending on the size.”

Murray keeps copious records of her donations and has kept the blankets on display at the school for all to see where their money and donations of fabric have gone. She will be delivering this first batch of blankets in the coming days, but she doesn’t want her project to end with that first delivery, as she is well aware of the statistics surrounding sexual abuse.

According to statistics on the website Darkness to Light, one in ten children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, 90 percent of the victims know their abuser and one in seven incidents of sexual abuse are perpetrated by juveniles on a school day.

“This unfortunately is not a problem that is going to go away, but if I can help these children in any way, I am going to,” Murray said. “I am blessed that I have the skills to make a blanket if I wanted to, and if I needed a blanket, I could even afford to buy one, but I am going to keep this going in order to help those who can’t. In my mind, I have a vision of a child at Day One, needing a blanket and someone there saying, ‘Here, pick one out right now,’ and that child being able to go home with it right then and there.”

Those interested in donating to the weighted blankets project at Western Hills can send their donations to the school to the attention of Suzanne Murray. Those with questions can contact her by email at smurray@cpsed.net.

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