Catholic high school student’s service project benefits hospital patients

Sydney Ditscheit leads volunteers in creation of 55 tie fleece blankets

GREEN BAY — A good keepsake from a bad situation inspired a Notre Dame Academy student to give back to others.

Sophomore Sydney Ditscheit recently led an effort to make 55 tie fleece blankets for American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, where she was a patient less than two years ago.

Volunteers work on a Star Wars tie fleece blanket Jan. 24 at the Notre Dame Academy library. Dozens of volunteers, led by NDA sophomore Sydney Ditscheit, made 55 tie fleece blankets for American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“When I was there, I received a blanket,” said Ditscheit, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Green Bay. “A while later, I was trying to think with my friends how I could help my community. I saw my blanket and thought that maybe we could get something together, to organize something and donate more blankets.”

Ditscheit was airlifted to the hospital following a UTV (utility terrain vehicle) accident in 2016. She was hospitalized for three days, including a night in the intensive care unit.

“It was pretty scary. It happened at our cabin,” said Dan Ditscheit, Sydney’s father. “They hit a tree with the UTV. She was in and out, in and out. Paramedics came and really didn’t know what was going on, so they called for Flight for Life.”

Sydney was diagnosed with a severe concussion. Her younger sister, Riley, broke her arm in the accident.

“I don’t remember any of it,” said Sydney. “I don’t remember the hospital.”

Raising money for blanket fabric was the first task of the service project. Sydney and her friends held a fundraiser at Notre Dame. She also received a $500 grant from Youth Service America and the Walt Disney Company.

Sydney Ditscheit, a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, is assisted by her father, Dan, as she works on a tie fleece blanket Jan. 24 at the Catholic high school library. Sydney received a $500 grant to purchase material to make 55 blankets for American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“I found it online. You could apply online,” said Sydney “It’s given (annually) to 1,000 teenagers and kids in the U.S. It was about a month and half from the time I submitted my application to the email informing me that I received it. I was very surprised and overjoyed when I got it. That bought all the blankets, some extra scissors and ribbon.”

Sydney had previously made a couple of tie fleece blankets with her mother Kayt. She found plenty of volunteers for her project.

“I sent out information to all the GRACE (Green Bay Area Catholic Education) schools. They all put something in the newsletter or hung up posters,” she explained. “I am a part of ASTRA (Ability, Service, Training, Responsibility and Achievement), the service club at school. I made this into an ASTRA event.”

Volunteers, led by Sydney, cut and tied fleece blankets after school on Jan. 24 and 25 at Notre Dame Academy. Handmade cards were created and attached to the blankets.

“I definitely learned the importance of service and community,” said Sydney. “If I had one without the other, this wouldn’t have happened. I couldn’t have done this by myself. I definitely needed everyone’s help. Without people putting their hearts into it, we couldn’t get this done.

“It’s fun with friends,” she added. “It’s like an arts and crafts project with your friends.”

The blankets were delivered to American Family Children’s Hospital on Saturday, Jan. 27. The trip was Sydney’s first to the hospital since the accident.

“It’s sentimental,” she said. “I also know family friends who have spent time there so that adds another level.”

Sydney, who is a member of the cross country and track and field teams at Notre Dame, has provided outreach through ASTRA, including volunteering at the Children’s Museum of Green Bay and for Prevea events. She has also assisted Bright Young Dyslexics, an organization co-founded by her friend and classmate Caragan Olles. The blanket project was her first in a leadership role.

“I’ve definitely stepped up and learned a lot about directing people, but not taking control,” said Sydney. “I want to keep this going; maybe have similar events and donate more blankets or other things to the hospital.”

If interested in supporting the  blanket project, visit http://www.gofundme.com/blankets-for-a-better-tomorrow.