WORCESTER, Mass. — Somewhere between the layer of cotton flannel and minky fabric is magic, trapped along with reams of comfort and bolts of hope.
To the untrained eye, it is just a blanket — something to keep the chill away.
To children like Gavin, Brady and Summer, it was their armor as they went through countless doctors' visits, tests, chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. To their parents, it was the one thing that gave them comfort when no one and nothing else could.
A simple blanket, hand-sewn by Susan Posterro, or any one of her league of volunteer moms behind Binkeez for Comfort .
"There were times you couldn't make him happy, there were bad days with radiation and chemo, there were days he just didn't like being himself," said Brady Smith's mom, April Smith. Brady was diagnosed in 2014 with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. "But this was comfort. This brought hope, and you never really know how many people are out there that are so giving."
Binkeez for Comfort is headquartered in North Grafton and the blankets are produced at the Crompton Collective on Green Street. In 2013, Binkeez for Comfort received its nonprofit status, and since then has donated 2,300 blankets, each of which takes about 45 minutes to make.
The mission behind Binkeez began several years ago with Posterro's mother, Lynne McAtee, who sewed swaddling blankets for babies in developing countries. The mother-daughter duo started making blankets for the UMass NICU, and Posterro expanded the mission to focus on comforting children with serious or terminal illnesses.
Not long ago, Posterro walked away from her law career to focus exclusively on Binkeez for Comfort. Posterro said it was the choice between doing what she thought she wanted to do and what she was meant to do. Binkeez of Comfort is not just about the simple act giving a gift to a stranger, but of recognizing the gifts you have to give, Posterro said.
When you ask Posterro to tell her story, she prefers to show it through the children she has helped.
Summer Baisley, 5, of Milford was one of the first children to receive a blanket.
"It's like a miracle, magical blanket. Everything else she has gets destroyed, but this — it's been through it all," said her mom, Marla Baisley. Summer was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2010 and went through 2½ years of chemotherapy.
"From the moment she got it, she wrapped it around her. I just think it made her feel so special. It was something positive that happened out of a time when everything was going wrong. I think it made her feel indestructible."
Gavin Strand is only 3, and for the first two years of his life he has been undergoing treatment for ALL. He takes chemo in a pill form every night, and every week he receives chemotherapy through a port.
"As his mom, I couldn't take his pain away. I couldn't make him comfortable, but this gave him comfort," said his mom, Katie Strand.
Besides giving comfort, the business of Binkeez is about paying it forward. Many of the moms whose children received a blanket now volunteer making and delivering them. Gavin has paid it forward, and delivered a blanket to 2-year-old Jack Grutchfield of Leominster.
Jack was diagnosed with T-cell ALL at 13 months old.
"This was the only blanket we were able to put on him," said Katy Grutchfield, his mom. "Until we got this, he would squirm and scream and not let any blanket touch him. He took to it immediately and he takes it everywhere. It's cozy as all get out. There's love sewn right into it and he know it."
Liam Fitzgerald, 8, of Northboro, treasurers his blanket, using it mostly in his house. It's the blanket he breaks out to cuddle with his mom before going to bed.
"There is power in this blanket. There is warmth, there is comfort. It is safe for him and he knows it is special," Christine Fitzgerald said.
Olivia Keller, 5, of Leominster, was diagnosed with Wilms' Tumor, a form of kidney cancer, when she was 2 ½ years old.
"This blanket is her safe spot," said her mom, Lori Keller. "She takes it to doctor's appointments, to clinics because it is a piece of home."
Stephanie Fontaine's 10 ½-year-old daughter, Kailiah, is a cancer survivor, but she does not have a blanket. In 2008, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, and this year marked her fifth year of being cancer free. To celebrate, the Worcester family decided to spend this year celebrating by giving back to others and delivering Binkeez for Comfort.
"I wanted to make this year about walking alongside others," Fontaine said. "We already made our journey, but we want to support others going through this."
Kailiah has been an inspiration for a Binkeez design, and will soon be getting her own.
Posterro is selective about the fabric she uses — it is certified lead-free highest quality fabric. Many of the patterns are named after children who are fighting — or fought — bravely.
Posterro travels all over the country delivering blankets to children is hospitals or hospice centers. She recently returned from Chicago and is preparing for another delivery mission to California.
Binkeez for Comfort recently partnered with the Clay Buchholz Foundation. The foundation's, co-founder Lindsay Buchholz, the Red Sox pitcher's wife, will be giving two blankets inspired by Clay Buchholz to moms participating in the 5th Annual Mommas Shave for the Brave event.
"This is not just a blanket. It is normalcy and consistency. These kids just want normalcy, and to be a small piece of that, it is an honor" Posterro said. "It is a beautiful mission."