Tales We Tell: Cecil woman blanketing children in comfort

December 8, 2013
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Mary Ann Roberts knits blankets for the Linus Project that are given to babies at hospitals. She has completed about a dozen so far. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Mary Ann Roberts of Muse makes her own scarves by knitting and crocheting. She keeps some for herself and gives some away as gifts. Roberts loves traveling and baking goodies for her grandchildren. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Mary Ann Roberts knits blankets for the Linus Project and scarves for family and friends. She loves to travel and bake goodies for her grandchildren. Order a Print

Cancer survivor Mary Ann Roberts knows the uncertainty of facing a life-threatening illness.

So Roberts didn’t hesitate to volunteer when a friend told her about Project Linus, a nationwide nonprofit organization that provides handmade blankets for children who are seriously ill, traumatized or in need.

“When I heard about it, I thought it was a great cause and I said I can do that,” said Roberts, who has crocheted and knitted since she was 12 years old. “I have time to do it, and I’m happy to help out.”

In the past year since she became a “blanketeer,” Roberts, 71, of Cecil, has made 13 child-sized blankets that her friend’s daughter distributes to children at Magee-Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. The organization’s mission is to provide a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children (from newborns to teenagers) through new, homemade blankets and afghans.

Project Linus was named after the security blanket-toting character from the Peanuts comic strip.

Although Roberts has never met any of the children who have received one of her blankets, she is happy to know they have served as a source of comfort.

Roberts said her battle with colon cancer 16 1/2 years ago was, in some ways, motivated her to make the most out of her life. She doesn’t want to waste a minute.

“I get up every morning and tell myself, ‘Oh good, here I am again.’ I put one foot in front of the other and keep on going. I’m a person who needs to be busy.”

Roberts, who retired from Canonsburg Hospital after 33 years, starts every morning with a 2 ½ mile walk, which helps alleviate her arthritis.

The mother of three girls, Roberts lives with daughter Debbie Moore and son-in-law Bob and spends plenty of time in the kitchen baking, which is one of her favorite hobbies.

“Oh my goodness, you should see my freezer right now,” said Roberts, who has been baking for weeks in preparation for Christmas. She gives dozens of cookies to the Moores to take to work, and she stops in at Canonsburg Hospital to visit former co-workers and brings along gobs, chocolate chip cookies and other assorted baked goods.

Roberts has a green thumb and tends to 10 flower gardens and a vegetable garden in her yard.

She meets friends at least once a week for lunch and travels with a group of friends as often as she can.

“I love to travel and see new places, and I love cruises,” said Roberts, who also enjoys driving the country and recently drove with friends to visit Mt. Rushmore. She makes time for friends, saying, “It’s important to have friends because they keep you connected and they keep you active. I have great friends who make my life a lot of fun.”

Roberts has a fascination with whales and has gone on several whale watches, spotting the magnificent creatures in Alaska, Hawaii and the Bahamas.

Despite dealing with her share of sadness – one of her grandsons died in an accident and a sister died from colon cancer – Roberts is enthusiastically optimistic about life.

“I’ve had a merry life,” she said. “I do what I want when I want. It’s a good life.”

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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