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Aidan Project donates blankets to cancer patients

| Thursday, December 4, 2014

The ninth annual Aidan Project — a service event dedicated to making fleece-tie blankets for hospitalized cancer patients throughout Indiana — will take place Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at South Dining Hall.

Circle K president Ivana Surjancev, a junior, said Aidan Fitzgerald, a 2009 Notre Dame alumnus who lived in Knott Hall and battled cancer while at the University, worked with his hall and Circle K to help organize the project as a signature dorm event after his diagnosis in 2006.

“We donate all the blankets to both oncology and pediatric units to help remind the patients that they are not alone and that, as a community, we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers,” Surjancev said.

Students have the opportunity to volunteer for any length of time, and Surjancev said it only takes 20 minutes to make one blanket. Volunteers also have the opportunity to write a personalized note to be delivered to the patients along with the blankets.

“It’s very easy to make the blankets and always a lot of fun to do,” she said. “Aidan still visits our event, too, and it is inspirational to see how this project has touched so many different people.”

One of the biggest components of the project is its ability to raise awareness about cancer, Surjancev said.

“More importantly, it helps lend warmth, strength and hope to those currently fighting cancer,” she said. “Many hospitals and patients benefit from receiving these blankets.”

Knott Hall president and junior Joseph Schneider said the Aidan Project is great because it allows students to share the support system they have at Notre Dame with children in need of encouragement.

“As with all dorms on campus, you become a part of the family when you live there,” Schneider said. “The great thing about having that sort of family support system is that you can team up with your friends and roommates to help people truly in need.

“That is exactly what Aidan Fitzgerald did when he started the Aidan Project in 2006.”

While the event only lasts one day, Surjancev said planning begins more than half a year beforehand. Each year, a minimum of 15 Circle K board members join the hall staff and service commissioners of Knott Hall to organize the event.

Junior Ralph Hauke said the event is a great opportunity to help others.

“The blankets are really easy and fun to make, and you walk away knowing that you made an impact in someone’s life,” he said.

Other clubs and organizations also aid in the event, and they include the local Key Club, Kiwanis Club of South Bend and other Circle K clubs, including the district board. Surjancev said this year the Harper Cancer Research Institute also joined the cause in support of the fight against cancer.

“In addition to that, so many members of the Notre Dame community come out to make a blanket or two so we really couldn’t do it without the community support,” she said.

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About Carolyn Hutyra

Carolyn Hutyra serves as an Assistant News Editor for The Observer. She is a senior from Arlington Heights, Illinois studying Biology and Anthropology.

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