Angel Magnussen of Hugginz By Angel in Port Alberni is a busy woman these days.
Magnussen has been named in the Top 10 for Roots Search for Canada’s Nicest Person. She is also in the running for a $50,000 Island Savings Community Grant from the online website Volinspire, which would help her keep her charity running for at least the next couple of years.
Magnussen sews blankets for sick kids around the world from her Hugginz studio in Port Alberni. Her mother, Cheryl, estimates Angel has sewn “well over 1,200 blankets” in the four and a half years since Hugginz began.
Hugginz started when Angel, who lives with Down Syndrome and a host of health concerns, wanted to make something for kids who were sick in hospital. She herself has spent months of her life in hospital, and told Cheryl “kids need warm hugs to help them get better.”
“We started giving kids a choice between pyjamas and blankets, and they all wanted blankets,” said Cheryl, who admits she was skeptical that kids really needed the blankets at first. That was before Angel insisted, and before stories came flooding in about how the blankets are helping children and families.
“It’s their ‘be brave’ blanket. they know they are loved and it helps them feel safe,” says Cheryl. Angel puts love into every blanket she sews by hugging it once it’s finished.
“We’ve had quite a few palliative kids and when they’re passing away, their families put their love in their blankets,” Cheryl said.
One little boy’s family wrapped him in his Hugginz blanket as he passed away. Another little girl wore her first blanket out during chemotherapy treatments, so Angel made her another one, which was handed down to the girl’s siblings when she passed away. Another boy, who has autism, wears his like a cape to school so he feels safe.
“It’s absolutely incredible to hear from families about how important the blankets are when their kids are passing away,” Cheryl said, tears filling her eyes. “I didn’t see the validity in it when Angel first started.”
Hearing stories from families about how the blanket affects their children “blows me away. I was wrong. Who should know more about what sick kids need than someone who has been there?”
They don’t charge families for the blankets. “It costs a lot of money when you have a child who is back and forth to the hospital all the time,” Cheryl said. “You’re paying so much in medical and travel expenses that there’s no way we want to charge families. We want to help families.”
Until January, when Hugginz By Angel became a registered charity, Magnussen’s organization relied strictly on donations—of cash, fabric and equipment. The Magnussens entered Angel in contests too: she was most recently winner of the national Post Search for Goodness contest last August, and won $10,000 to put toward her charity. It helped immensely in keeping Hugginz running, but it also thrust them into a catch-22, Cheryl said: the individual donations stopped coming, as people thought they were in good shape.
With cotton batting costing $650 a month, and postage to send the blankets away high too, the $10,000 was quickly absorbed.
”We were at a point I was really worried we would have to close the door. There’s only so long we could go on without donations or public funding,” Cheryl said.
Becoming a registered charity allows Hugginz to issue tax receipts for any donation above $10, and also allows them to apply for grants such as the Island Savings grant.
Requests for Angels’ blankets come from families around the world. As soon as a batch of blankets go out in the mail, the Hugginz in-box fills up with more requests, Cheryl said.
It is for this generosity to families of sick children that Magnussen was nominated one of 10 people in the running for Canada’s Nicest Person contest, which ends June 18. Another Vancouver Island woman, sign language interpreter Kristi Falconer of Victoria, is also in the Top 10.
To vote in the Roots contest, go online to http://www.roots.com/ca/en/contest.html?cm_mmc=Canada%20150-_-Organic%20Social-_-Facebook-_-Contest and click on the candidate you’d like to vote for.
The winning nominee will receive a $10,000 donation to a charity of their choice, a $500 gift card from Roots and a custom award jacket. Magnussen said if she wins, she would want her donation to go to either the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, Variety–The Children’s Charity (for which she has raised $330,000 so far) or Hugginz By Angel.
The Roots contest asks for people to vote daily for finalists. The Volinspire grant only asks people to sign up and vote once, at this website: https://volinspire.com/post/11107.
Anyone wanting to help out in the Hugginz studio or with fundraising can reach Cheryl Magnussen through hugginzbyangel.com or on their Facebook page.