An expanding Ontario-based charity has made its way to Airdrie.
On Oct. 11, the Airdrie-based chapter of Cuddles for Cancer (CFC) officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Airdrie Royal Canadian Legion. The charity provides customized fleece blankets to hospital patients, military veterans, first responders, the homeless and more.
Seventeen-year-old Faith Dickinson, a senior high school student from Lakefield, Ont., started CFC when she was just nine years old. According to Dickinson, the charity originated when she made a “cuddle blanket” for her aunt Lyndi, who had been diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer.
“I made her a blanket and she said it was so nice, because she got so cold during her chemotherapy treatments,” she said.
CFC has taken off since those early days, Dickinson said, adding the charity has sent more than 5,000 blankets to individuals in 45 countries.
Dickinson’s altruism has even received the royal treatment. In 2017, she received the inaugural Legacy Diana Award from Prince Harry and Prince William in London, England, and she was invited to attend the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018. Closer to home, she was awarded the sovereign Medal of Volunteers for her work with Canadian soldiers and veterans.
“I will admit, I get tired a lot and worn out with school and everything else going on, but it’s the stories I get [that keep me motivated],” she said.
Eleven-year-old Jack Hunter will head the Airdrie chapter. The Grade-6 École Airdrie Middle School student said his involvement stemmed from a summer trip to Ontario he and his father undertook. He said he met Dickinson there, who introduced him to the charity.
“We had a barbecue, and the next day, she took us to the drop-in centre in Lakefield, and we made a blanket,” Hunter said. “It was really fun.”
He added Dickinson mentioned she was looking to open a second chapter in Western Canada, and he offered to take the reins, making the blankets from his home in Airdrie and donating them locally.
“It’s a really great idea and I like what she’s doing,” he said.
Dickinson said she was excited to see the charity’s second official branch come to fruition.
“Today has been very surreal,” she said at the launch. “Flying out here yesterday, and now this [ribbon-cutting event] – it’s just very exciting. I remember talking to Jack about it in my backyard, and now, it’s coming to life.”
The day after the ribbon cutting, Hunter kicked off the Airdrie chapter’s first initiative. The Sponsor a Soldier campaign, which will run until Remembrance Day, will ask community members, families, churches and businesses to sponsor a soldier for $50.
“Hopefully, it gets bigger and bigger, as the years go by,” he said.
Though the original chapter in Lakefield now boasts its own drop-in centre where volunteers help make the fleece blankets, Dickinson added, just like Hunter, she started the operation out of her house.
“Right now, he’s starting in his basement, just like I did for five years, and maybe a drop-in location will be in his future,” she said.