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Local women’s “portable hugs” offer comfort to children in need

Aug. 10, 2009

A little boy sits silently, the voices of unknown grown-ups surrounding him. His wide brown eyes are glued to the floor, his arms wrapped around his thin shoulders in a tight embrace. A woman walks up beside him, offering a reassuring smile. The boy looks up at her as she drapes a soft quilt around him, just big enough to cover his petite figure. He closes his eyes and breathes deeply as he feels the warm comfort of the cloth on his skin.


The boy has just arrived at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Child Protection Center, and this quilt is a “portable hug” made by the Children’s Hospital Welfare Auxiliary. The child-size, cuddly quilts offer comfort to children who are brought to the center as suspected victims of child abuse or neglect.


The portable hugs provide something to hold for kids who desperately need care and support. Members of the Welfare Auxiliary make these quilts and sell them at their fundraising event, the Swan Ball, held every fall. Quilt buyers, in turn, donate the quilts to the Child Protection Center. Last year, proceeds from the Swan Ball and portable hug sales raised $165,000 for the center, adding to the nearly $2.2 million the Welfare Auxiliary has raised for the center in its 83 years of existence.


The Welfare Auxiliary has members of all ages, from young, working mothers to retired grandmothers. They come from diverse professional backgrounds that include business, education and law. However, they all share a common goal: volunteering their time and talents to help young victims of abuse and neglect.


Meet a member from your neighborhood:


Name: Mary Ann Renz (left, pictured with Linda Schieble of Oconomowoc and Mary McKisson of Whitefish Bay)


Occupation: Community Volunteer


Member since: Past president in 1990, member for more than 20 years


Favorite thing about being a member: The opportunity to do things for kids at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.


Memorable moment: I like making the portable hugs for kids who have been abused. Anything we do that particularly helps those kids makes me happy.


If you’re interested in joining the Welfare Auxiliary, call Linda Schieble, auxiliary president, at (414) 266-6343 for more information.


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