Lions show warmth for Hometown Hero

Photo by Richie Ann Ashcraft—Kerrie Strasser, left, received the Grand Junction Lions Club annual Hometown Hero Award on Tuesday for her work beginning the local chapter of Project Linus, in which volunteers sew and give blankets to sick or injured children. Strasser said she became familiar with Project Linus in 2003 when her own daughter received a blanket from the organization while undergoing chemotherapy in Denver.

Dry eyes were hard to find Tuesday when the Grand Junction Lions Club gave a standing ovation to an unsung community hero who has sewn and distributed thousands of blankets for sick or injured children in the Grand Valley.

Kerrie Strasser, founder of the local Project Linus chapter, was presented the 2010 Hometown Hero Award for her empathy and behind-the-scenes work helping comfort children during their stays at local hospitals.

“She has brought warmth and comfort to thousands, and we honor her for her compassion and caring of kids in the Grand Valley,” Lions Club member Reford Theobold said as he presented the award, an enormous bouquet of yellow roses and an oversized check for $1,000, which will go to a charity of Strasser’s choice.

Standing in the back of the room, dabbing their eyes with their napkins, were Strasser’s parents, Doug and Jan Steiner.

“This is absolutely wonderful,” Doug Steiner said. “The fact that they give this award and they give it with such finesse, we couldn’t be more proud.

“For years, she’s always worked quietly in the background. This is going to give her great satisfaction for her work.”

Strasser has delivered more than 5,000 blankets to area hospitals in the past five years. At times, her father said, an entire half of Strasser’s bedroom is filled with blankets.

Strasser became familiar with Project Linus in 2003 when her daughter, Sarah, was diagnosed with cancer. She received a blanket from the organization while at a Denver hospital undergoing her first chemotherapy treatment. The blanket provided such warmth and comfort for her daughter that Strasser returned to the Grand Valley and started a chapter of Project Linus.

During a video testimonial at the luncheon, several of the pediatric nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital explained what the simple gift of a blanket can do to help a sick child. They said the hospital is often a scary and uncomfortable place, but that giving a blanket — something that can be held tightly — can change the experience for an entire family.

“She has made a wonderful world of difference to those in Grand Junction,” said Connie Brownson, who has knitted more than 200 blankets for Project Linus.

Strasser chose not to address the club, other than calling the experience “overwhelming” and thanking members for their recognition.

Her name will be added to the permanent display of Hometown Hero Award recipients in the Two Rivers Convention Center lobby.


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