LESLIE, Mo. – Starting the year with a baby in the hospital is the last thing any family would want. A grandmother from Leslie, Missouri, knows that feeling all too well.
She's on a mission to make sure those families are remembered, and a tiny angel is not forgotten.
When Sharon Schengbier and her friends gather around the dining room table, something special happens.
"Vicky and Ruth marking blankets, Mary coming and everybody just says what can I do,” Schengbier said.
Their mission is to blanket families with children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Louis Children's Hospital with love and to make sure a tiny angel is not forgotten.
"He was born at a pound, 2 ounces at 24 weeks, that made him 16 weeks early,” Schengbier said.
Raylan Louis Schengbier arrived in this world facing a lot of challenges.
"He just had a lot of hurdles that he had to jump, and every time that he had a hurdle, he made it. He was just a tough little guy,” Schengbier said.
Raylan and his family spent more than eight months in the NICU. Little Raylan received his angel wings last January.
"He was just, it's so hard to explain, but he was such a powerful force,” Schengbier said.
The blankets, books and a message are a way for Sharon to keep her grandson's spirit alive.
The message reads:
"In remembrance of Raylan,
our little one that had the strength and the power to change the lives in such a wonderful way,
that may you cuddle yours with love and prayers,
our hearts are with you.
Raylan's family and friends."
It's an undertaking she couldn't do alone. Sharon's sister Vicky is one of the helpers.
“I don't know much about crocheting, but that's what they need,” Vicky Winistoerfer said. “So then I mark every half inch so that we know where to poke the holes for the crocheted edge."
"That's why it says Raylan's family and friends on the card. It is about honoring this little guy,” Schengbier said.
And when blankets reach their destination, the group's mission is almost complete.
"We're happy to bring these blankets to the bedside and tell the family, hey this family that went through this experience just like you want to give this back to you,” NICU Nurse Tammy Evans said. “And how special is that?"
For Sharon Schengbier that's what it's all about.
"Because we've been there, and set there and they bring up a gift from somebody and we're like, "wow, that is so cool!” Schengbier said. “So it's just our way of saying that we're with them, we are with these parents."
Sharon came up with the idea for the blankets when Raylan was still in the NICU.
She made him a blanket, but unfortunately, he never got to use it.
Sharon said donations from her friends, people in the community, even the union members she works with, make it possible to buy the supplies for the project. So far, Sharon and her group have delivered more than 300 blankets to the NICU at St. Louis Children's Hospital.