Strength Within the Community


Galena High School sophomore Abby Ehrler was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was in 6th grade. All that year she was in and out of the hospital, recovering at home and still playing the lead role in the middle school play and participating in a swim team.”I feel like my recovery was very slow. I was sick my whole sixth-grade year. I was also down most of that summer trying to figure out what medications I needed. I’m still trying medications to help me more.”

Two years ago, Abby decided that she wanted to give back and provide some comfort to other kids who might be going through what she experienced. She decided to create Abby’s Blankets of Strength. “I’ve always made blankets. I actually made one for one of my friends. And it got me thinking, others that are sick would enjoy a blanket just as much as she did!” said Ehrler. She thought kids like herself might feel more at home, comfortable and warm through the hospital visits and just resting at home during their cancer treatments.

Since the group was created, Ehrler has donated about 215 blankets to local children’s hospitals such as the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the OFS Children’s Hospital of Peoria. Along with hospitals, Ehrler also sends blankets to children that are home and sick. Ehrler was interviewed by the local news in Peoria, ”They said something about a picture and I agreed. And then all of the sudden the news truck showed up, which was ironic because we were making jokes about them showing up, it was all so sudden. But for it being my first live news they said I did really well,” she said. 

Ehrler makes all these blankets by herself with some help from her mom and the GHS Key Club. Along with the blankets that Ehrler makes, a card is sent with each blanket. Ehrler’s younger sister Maddie makes small cards to go along with each blanket given to the children to make them feel loved. Abby’s Blankets of Strength is completely run on donations. “We’ve been buying fabric then using our extra donations to purchase boxes and shipping labels to get blankets out to hospitals and kiddos at home since you can’t go in with Covid,” she said.

The Galena School District donated $200 to Ehrler to put towards her cause right before students went on Winter Break. ”I had no idea,” she said. “I was grateful to see that the teachers I’ve been around since preschool support me just as much as my parents. ”When we see a great student, like Abby herself, giving back to the community, we just have to donate. The fundraiser was sent out through the whole school district so any teacher could donate to Abby’s cause,” said Niles.

The Galena Key Club has done a service project each year to make and donate fleece tie blankets to a local hospital. Last year, advisor Susan Bookless thought it might be a great idea to partner with Ehrler. “The GHS Key Club really likes to focus on helping groups in our community,” she said. “So when it came time to make and donate blankets last year, I immediately thought of Abby and the work she is doing.” The Key Club will hold its annual event on Thursday, Jan. 21, and make more than 30 blankets to help Abby on her mission. “Seeing the kids all come together to create these blankets is really special,” said Bookless. “I love knowing that we are sending these out into the world for kids that need a little extra something.”

Each blanket that Abby has donated, she has gotten a picture with the child receiving the handmade blanket. Abby posted each of her pictures with the children and their blankets on her Facebook page. If anyone would like to support this organization, donations can be given as cash, Pay Pal at [email protected], Venmo @Amanda-Ehrler, or as a Joann Fabric gift card.