If you walk in the entrance of the Sandra and Leon Levine Jewish Community Center (LJCC) on any given Wednesday morning, your eyes will meet a cartoon character or two and blankets of many colors.
Wednesday is the day the Chai Hopes group meets, from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., to crochet or knit blankets for sick or injured children at the Levine Children's Hospital.
The goal is to provide comfort and hope to every child with a blanket.
Chai Hopes is the brainchild of Charlotte resident Lynn Edelstein.
Three years ago, Edelstein, 69, took a private tour of the Levine Children's Hospital before it opened.
At that time, she had two wishes: "I hoped that I would never have to come back to the hospital," Edelstein said, "and that I wanted to do something for every child that is admitted."
Knitting blankets for every child was an idea that came naturally to the philanthropic Edelstein. She owns Yours Truly Needlepoint in Charlotte, which donates its profits to local and national charities.
Everyone is welcome to participate in Chai Hopes, said Edelstein, who credits the LJCC with providing a comfortable and welcoming venue.
Since Chai Hopes started in 2008, the group has received blankets from 21 states, Canada, and Germany.
"Ninety-nine percent of people (who donate blankets) knit at home," said Edelstein. They either mail the blankets or drop them off at the center.
Each blanket uses about $18 worth of yarn.
"A lot of people donate in honor or in memory of people," said Edelstein.
Charlotte resident Jan Aniel, 57, knits for Chai Hopes because she feels it's important to "build a community that is supportive of children's health-related issues."
When Aniel lost her job during the recession, knitting was like "therapy, doing something good," she said.
Judy Marco, 68, and Lori Semel, 38, are a mother-daughter knitting team. Marco taught Semel how to knit about five years ago. "I love to knit and love to have a good purpose for it, because after a while you run out of family and friends that needs scarves, blankets and sweaters," said Marco, who has made about 20 blankets.
Chai Hopes is about to donate its 2,100th blanket to the Levine Children's Hospital. That blanket features a large Mickey Mouse on a red background and was knitted by Judy Rhoads You do not have to be Jewish or a member of the LJCC to participate, but you need to bring knitting needles. Edelstein will provide the yarn and teach non-knitters how to knit.
"We truly appreciate our Chai Hopes group and the gifts that they share of the beautiful blankets," said Carrie Keuten, group/event coordinator of the hospital's Child Life DepartmentKeuten said the group makes "a difference in the life of a child every day."