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(Tuesday, May 13, 2014) Samantha Bryson still treasures a soft, pink, hand-crocheted baby blanket she was given at birth.

Born prematurely at 36 weeks on Feb. 26, 2003, she weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces, and was 17 inches in length. Babies born earlier than 37 weeks are considered premature.

Samantha’s early start in life recently came full circle when her fifth-grade class at Sahuarita Intermediate School was given a challenge. Teacher Saralee Burkett told each student to come up with an idea for a service learning project.

Samantha wanted her project to reflect her memories of the special baby blanket she was given after spending three weeks at Tucson Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit.

“It was a personal experience,” she said. “It meant a lot to my mom. I was a baby; I really didn’t know.”

Samantha’s mother, Jan Bryson, said she thought the endeavor would be meaningful to her daughter, who tends to think of others first.

The inside of the front door of the Bryson home has a special quote: “It’s your best that matters.” – Samantha Bryson.

With her project quickly decided, daughter and mother spread the word to aunts, grandparents, friends and neighbors with a digital flier sent by e-mail and posted on Facebook.

The flier gives the ‘who, what, when, where’ pertinent information, much like an invitation. For the ‘why’ it says “Families with sick babies are comforted by a touch of homemade love.”

The project started at the end of February to coincide with Samantha’s birthday. By April 27, she had received 61 blankets, with more coming.

“I thought it would be very hard, but I got a lot more than expected,” Samantha said.

Among the colorful stacks of baby blankets, ready for delivery from the Bryson home to Tucson Medical Center’s NICU, some are crocheted, some are flannel with a machine-stitched edge, and some are soft cotton with a crocheted edge. One blanket has a satin trim and is machine-stitched with “For this child I have prayed” in different colors.

Samantha made four flannel baby blankets and her mom crocheted a few, too.

“We delivered a total of 66 blankets. She hand delivered about 12 to families who were present in the NICU,” said Jan Bryson. “The delivery was the best part of the project. The parents seemed really touched. Someone asked Samantha when she would be ready to do the project again. She answered, ‘Now!’ She is thinking of doing this annually.”

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