When a May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in nearby Douglas County left one student dead and eight others injured, Tri-Lakes area quilters knew they had to do something to help their neighbors to the north.
The Palmer Divide Blanket Brigade carefully crafted and donated more than 100 quilts to a church that provided shelter and comfort to students after the shooting.
After determining none of the children were injured in the attack, St. Mark Catholic Church in Highlands Ranch offered support for middle and high school students who may have witnessed and been traumatized by the event. On May 9, the church hosted a day-long prayer vigil and open house, during which grief counselors were available to meet with students, residents and parishioners.
“Because of a prior relationship with counselors in Douglas County schools, we were able to rush 107 quilts to those working with students at STEM School after their tragedy,” said Palmer Divide Blanket Brigade Treasurer Meg Edmonds.
According to Edmonds, one group of about 15 women in the Palmer Divide area meets weekly to piece and tie quilts while another group of about 15 meet twice monthly in Perry Park in Douglas County. Most of the women are retired and range in age from 60 to well into their nineties, and some also work on the quilts at home.
“This is an ongoing project, and we complete 20 to 25 quilts at each session,” Edmonds said. “From start to finish, a single quilt may take at least a month to complete all the steps.”
STEM is a charter school in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch. According to investigators, two students, who The Tribune is choosing not to name, opened fire in the school using handguns. Three other students, 18-year-old seniors Brendan Bialy, Kendrick Castillo and Joshua Jones lunged at and pinned one of the shooters against the wall, who managed to fire several shots during the struggle.
Castillo was killed and eight other students were wounded. Jones was shot twice, receiving non-life-threatening injuries to his hip and leg. Bialy got the handgun away from one of the shooters during the struggle. The shooters appeared in court on May 15. Their next court date is scheduled for Friday. The STEM School is about 10 miles from Columbine High School where on April 20, 1999, two students shot and killed 12 students and one teacher.
Based in Palmer Lake, the nonprofit Blanket Brigade started in 1996 when a small group of women decided to create lap robes for local nursing home residents. Eventually, the group became affiliated with Binky Patrol, a national organization that crafts small children’s blankets for donation.
“In 2004, we registered with the state as our own charity in order to give blankets to adults as well as children in need of comfort due to illness, grief or other circumstances,” Edmonds said.
The Blanket Brigade’s volunteers provide blankets to assisted living and group homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities, shelters, social services agencies and other agencies identified by need. In 2017, the group donated 1,492 blankets to local nonprofits like Christmas Unlimited and throughout the community.
“Each year we complete over 1,000 quilts,” Edmonds said. “In 2018, 1,534 quilts were given away to people in El Paso and Douglas counties through ... Memorial Hospital (pediatric unit), TESSA, school districts ... the pregnancy center and (CPCD) Head Start, as well as to individuals.”
Donations to the Palmer Divide Blanket Brigade are tax deductible. Memorial contributions can be made to the Palmer Divide Blanket Brigade, P.O. Box 222, Palmer Lake, CO 80133.