North Dakota middle schooler has made 800 blankets for people in need

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Nearly 10 years ago, a seventh grader currently attending Cheney Middle School began experiencing seizures.

Olivia Allen, 12, was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy.

“These blankets have given me the comfort to go through all this,” Olivia said.

While at the hospital, Olivia said she received a blanket and felt comforted by it. Those dark moments inspired her to begin a non-profit called Warm Blanket Hugs.

“We sit down at the table at night and make four to five blankets a night,” Olivia said.

In three years, Olivia and her mother Wendy Allen have made 800 blankets that have gone all around the world.

“Two strings like this and then you double knot them and you just pull them like that,” Olivia said demonstrating how she makes the blankets.

The middle schooler became serious with this project in 2017 asking family and friends to give her fleece and money instead of presents on her birthday.

“When people go through a difficult time, I think that we learn to find ways to cope with what we're going through and this is a way that she's found to deal with her issue that she goes through daily,” Wendy Allen said of her daughter.

The blankets are to help those who are seriously ill, traumatized, or in need.

“Anybody in the hospital, animal shelters, people in homeless shelters, people in the streets, people at home who lost their loved ones,” Olivia said.

She’s seen firsthand the impact giving someone a blanket can have. Her friend's grandmother had died and Olivia gave her a blanket. The friend became emotional by the gesture.

“Her grandmother meant a lot to her and that just touched my heart, so much I almost started crying too,” Olivia said.

Olivia was honored for her actions receiving the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.

It goes to top youth volunteers from each state and they go on an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C.

“When you're faced with a hardship, you can go through it and grumble and stumble, or use it as momentum to make the world a better place,” Wendy Allen said.

Making blankets for them is a labor of love that's worth it.

Olivia and Wendy Allen are currently trying to make 130 blankets by Christmas Day for people living in temporary housing as part of an event called the Joy Project.