Emma Houchins is a little girl with a big heart.
A year ago, Emma decided to collect and donate blankets instead of receiving presents for her eighth birthday, on Feb. 13.
This was her first Emma’s Birthday Blankets campaign and she collected 336 blankets, which she donated to several agencies.
This year, as her ninth birthday approaches, the New London girl is beginning her campaign, again seeking donations of blankets.
Her goal this year is to double the number she collected a year ago, according to her mother, Mandy Clendenny, giving her a goal of 672 blankets.
The campaign will be from Jan. 1 to her birthday, Feb. 13.
Emma has a message for all the people who donated blankets the first year and those who will help her collect them this time. “Thank you for sending me all my blankets, so I can send them to the people who don’t have any,” Emma said.
When she presented the blankets to the agencies a year ago, Emma said, it made her feel proud.
Her mother explained that Emma became inspired to help others as she was watching a commercial “about a little boy making his mark and collecting canned goods. ... She decided she wanted to keep people warm, so she chose the blankets.”
This was shortly after Christmas in 2012, Clendenny continued, and Emma said, “We just had Christmas. I don’t want presents this year for my birthday.”
She named the campaign Emma’s Birthday Blankets, and “we built her a Facebook page.”
Clendenny added that “one of the first places she wanted to take them was the James E. Cary Cancer Center in Hannibal, because her Grandma, (the late) Jean Campbell, had just gone through her treatment there.
“A lot of the patients are very cold during their treatment, and she wanted them to have a nice warm blanket during their chemo,” Clendenny said.
Emma delivered to several agencies during her first campaign, and “everyone was very happy to receive those blankets,” her mother said.
In addition to the cancer center, she gave blankets to the American Red Cross and Beth Haven Nursing Home in Hannibal, and the YWCA program in Quincy, Ill.
Some blankets went to individuals, Clendenny continued, such as “local cancer patients who were going through treatment, as well as to a local church that delivers them to the homeless in St. Louis.”
This year “The James E. Cary Cancer Center has asked for them again, and we have new places,” she said. “The Blessing Cancer Center in Quincy has also asked for some, as well as the Salvation Army in Hannibal.”
Page 2 of 2 - Last year, Clendenny said, “She had blankets coming from all over the country! She asked for new or gently used and most of them that came in were new.
“She had them come from Florida and California. She even had a professional baseball player sign one and send it her way. ... We had baby blankets, pretty much anything and everything.”
Emma is not just collecting new blankets, her mother said. “Even if it is gently used, there is somebody out there who can use it.”
Emma’s school also helped last year, Clendenny said. Emma is in fourth grade at New London Elementary School. At the school, “several kids brought in blankets, and they also took up a collection, and she would go out and purchase blankets.”
This year Emma has “drop off” locations in six cities. They are:
• The Encore Emporium - 4500 Paris Grave Road, Hannibal (less than one mile from U.S. 61).
• Main Street Thrift Shop - 101 S. Main, Monroe City.
• Creative Country - 108 N. Fourth, Canton.
• State Farm - 503 W. U.S. 54, Vandalia.
• American Family Insurance - Main Streeet, New London.
• Dr. Chismarich Dental - 310 W. Main, Bowling Green.
People are “welcome to take blankets to drop off sites from Jan 1 to Feb. 13,” Clendenny said.
“Some people make a donation, and we purchase new blankets and we will distribute them. She takes donations on gofundme.com/emma’sbirthdayblanket.”
For more information, email Clendenny at email@example.com.
“You can visit Emma’s Birthday Blankets on Facebook and follow her story,” Clendenny added.
After Emma’s ninth birthday campaign is completed, she said, “We still celebrate. She had presents come in from all over last year. We will still have a big birthday party with her friends.”