When Lesley Hackman gets stuck in traffic, she simply whips out her needles and yarn and begins knitting.
"You don't even have to look, you can just knit away," said Hackman.
Since last October, Hackman and her friend Odiorne Beebe, both residents of Great Falls, have been helping teach local students how to knit by having them make afghans for Project Linus, a national, non-profit organization that collects and makes "security blankets" for children who have been traumatized or are suffering from serious illnesses.
Once a month, Hackman and Beebe meet with student volunteers in the Great Falls Library, providing them with the necessary materials and specific parameters for size and appearance. The volunteers would knit 8-inch by 8-inch blocks, which they would turn in to Hackman and Beebe. The two women took all the blocks and put them together to create on afghan. The group of seven students was able to create two afghans for donation.
"I think I made 10 or 11 squares," said Stella Kim, 14 and an eighth grade student at Cooper Middle School.
Despite the fact that she had never knitted before, Kim joined the group after seeing it advertised on a sign in the Great Falls Library. She decided it would be a good way to fulfill her required community service hours for school. Kim said that she usually worked on her squares while watching television.
"She just took off," said Hackman.
Sarah Wycoff, 17, and a junior at Herndon High School knew about the group because her mother works as a librarian at Great Falls Library.
"I got needles and yarn for Christmas and she started teaching me," said Wycoff, who estimates making 14 squares for the Project Linus afghans. "It's pretty easy."
PROJECT LINUS WAS STARTED in Colorado in 1995 by Karen Loucks-Baker, after she read an article in Parade magazine called "Joy to the World." The article featured a picture of a little girl who had cancer. She was clutching her security blanket, and said in the article that it helped her get through her chemotherapy treatments. Loucks-Baker decided then to create homemade security blankets for all the children at Denver's Rocky Mountain Children's Cancer Center.
"That was the first donation, and chapters have popped up all over," said JoAnn Holley, Coordinator of the Project Linus Northern Virginia Chapter. "We have over 350 in almost all 50 states, and as of two years ago in the summer of 2004, Project Linus National had donated over 1 million blankets."
In addition to providing blankets to sick children, Project Linus has also made blankets for other causes, such as the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Holley started the Northern Virginia chapter in 1998.
"It started out slow, but then it just snowballed," she said.
Although the students do not know exactly where their two afghans will be donated, Holley said that 95 percent of the Northern Virginia chapter blankets stay in the Washington D.C. metro area.