Wrapped in a hug

Handmade ‘hug blankets’ offer a warm and comforting touch for palliative care patients at St. Joseph's Health Care London.

Sydney Vickers is no stranger to giving people hope and comfort. In fact, it’s in her name.

“I have always had an interest in volunteering and helping people,” Sydney says with a smile. “Hope is actually my middle name.”

palliative care patient
Palliative care patient Ursula Krahn receives a donated ‘hug blanket’ from Sydney Vickers. Sydney created Hope’s Hugs several years ago to represent a comforting hug to someone who is in need.

And help she does. The 18-year-old founded Hopes Hugs Inc. when she was just 15, an endeavour to provide homemade blankets to people in need of a little extra comfort and caring.

‘Hug blankets’, as Sydney calls them, are cut and tied in a shawl like manner, mimicking the feeling of a warm hug wrapped around your shoulders. Tucked in with each carefully crafted blanket is a poem providing a message of hope and love, written and signed by Sydney.

What started as a class project to support the community has grown into a full-time operation for Sydney. Family and friends have rallied behind the effort too, often volunteering their time to meet a growing demand for the cozy blankets.

Now, the ‘hug blankets’ are making their way into the Palliative Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute. The collaboration was spearheaded by social worker Anne Marie Wallace Phillips, who learned about Sydney’s heartfelt philanthropic efforts and reached out.

“We began handing out blankets over the holiday period this past December,” Anne Marie shares. “They are very meaningful for patients and caregivers - some patients tear up when receiving them.”

Palliative care provides pain management and relief of symptoms to those experiencing life-threatening, progressive or terminal illness. The care team at St. Joseph’s also focuses on the physical, social and spiritual needs of the patient while recognizing each patient’s individual needs and wishes.

Sydney Vickers and Anne Marie Wallace
Sydney Vickers, right, and social worker Anne Marie Wallace Phillips partnered to distribute homemade blankets, made by Sydney, to more than 50 palliative care patients at St. Joseph’s Heath Care London.

For some patients, the ‘hug blanket’ acts as a conduit to talk with staff about their care and various kinds of support that would be meaningful to them.

“Palliative care is about treating the person as a whole,” Anne Marie explains. “This means caring for a patient physically, emotionally and spiritually. The blankets provide emotional support to patients in a gentle way. This can sometimes spark a conversation with the individual about other types of care, such as music therapy or spiritual services.”

As added comfort, tassels hang from each blanket, giving patients – especially those living with dementia – a way to relieve frustration or restlessness, says Anne Marie.

“We see patients pull at the tassels instead of their catheters or other cords when anxious.”

hug blanket with poem
Each ‘hug blanket’ is accompanied by a poem written by Sydney Vickers as a way to provide a little extra comfort for patients.

The blankets also provide comfort for family and/or caregivers who, when ready, can take it home as a legacy gift or reminder of their loved one.

“In palliative care there is a lot of sadness, but there is also a lot of joy and hope – hope in what you wish your end of life to be,” explains Anne Marie.

For Sydney, the blankets are a hug she plans to keep on giving.  

“I want people who are going through a hard time or transition to know that someone is thinking about them. No matter what time of day it is – it’s a “hug” that will always be there for them when they need it.

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