The Pipestone Area Schools Gymnastics team made 12 tie-on blankets that are expected to be donated to Pipestone County Medical Center this week. Making these blankets is an annual project that the team started about five years ago, said Stacie Wallace, the team’s head coach.
“About five years ago, we were looking for a way to give back to our community and say thank you for the support we feel,” Wallace said. “We appreciate people who support Arrow Gymnastics, whether at a competition or through supportive messages on social media. We also appreciate the coaches who support our athletes throughout the school year.
The 22-girl team, Wallace said, makes 12 to 15 tie-up blankets each year when they do the project, and the girls meet in the spring in their practice room to work on the blankets and chat.
“It’s a good time for them to hang out and talk, to enjoy something together in our gym that’s different from regular training,” Wallace said. “It’s great to hear them laughing and working towards a common goal.”
The covers, Wallace said, each bear a label that reads “Made with love by the PAS Arrow gymnastics team.”
The team receives a variety of support for purchasing materials to make the blankets, Wallace said, including proceeds from the concession stands they help out with a few times a year, generous support from the parents of members of the team and even donations of fabric and scissors from the school’s family and consumer science teacher, Wendy Peters. The most important helper, Wallace said, is the 22 pairs of hands that sit down for a night and work together to give back to the community.
“I love that we have a group of girls who work hard together in the gym and are also willing to work hard together to bless people they may never meet,” Wallace said. “I think that’s a very important part of maturing and growing — being able to see outside of yourself and do something intentional to help someone else.”
Team members who were able to participate in the project said the overall experience was meaningful and rewarding for the team. Ella Melby, a senior at PAS and a member of the gymnastics team, said she knew she spoke for the team when she said she was proud to be able to give back to those in need.
“I love that it’s a special tradition that we do because not many sports do things like that,” Melby said. “We started this when I was in eighth grade and I think it’s been a tradition ever since. It’s always fun to be with the team as we make these blankets for those in the hospital. Making blankets allows us to bond as a team while doing something for the community and I’ve never been prouder to be part of this team.
Fellow team member and sophomore at PAS, Ryleigh Nissen, said the experience of working on the covers with her team is always rewarding.
“It’s really gratifying to know that our team can help and give blankets to people in the hospital,” Nissen said. “I like knowing we’re making a difference, even if it’s just a cover. It is also a very good team building activity that we do every year. It’s something I look forward to every year during the season.