Catholic Memorial High School stduents donated blankets to the West Allis Police Department. (Submitted photo)

The year 2020 brought unexpected hardships for everyone, but for families and individuals who went into the pandemic in vulnerable positions, experiencing poverty or domestic abuse, COVID-19 has made a bad situation worse.

That knowledge made the seventh annual Crusader Day of Service even more important to the hundreds of Catholic Memorial High School students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff who worked together to benefit 20 organizations and provide more than 1,500 hours of service to the community.

In particular, CMH students worked in collaboration with the West Allis Rotary Club to bring some much-needed comfort to children affected by domestic abuse the Advent season. Dozens of tie-knot blankets were created by CMH homerooms during the Crusader Day of Service to be distributed as part of comfort packets to children who have been displaced by abusive home lives.

The project was proposed by Dave Laske of the West Allis Rotary Club, whose children David, Jackie and Daniel, are all CMH graduates. Laske, a parishioner of St. Dominic Parish in Brookfield, obtained a grant from his Rotary Club district to compile comfort packets to be passed out to clients of the West Allis Police Department’s Victim Advocate Program.

Laske approached CMH Director of Campus Ministry Cindi Petre with the idea in September. The fact that it benefitted such vulnerable children made her interested in incorporating the project into the school’s day of service.

“Being a mom of six myself and a grandma, I just felt like, we have to do something to help,” said Petre. “It’s something that tugs at your heartstrings.”

This year’s Crusader Day of Service, naturally, looked a bit different than in the past. Instead of students signing up for whatever project and time slot they wish, projects were divided between homeroom groups. Each homeroom group made a blanket for Laske’s packet.

“The kids started the day with a gratitude examen, thinking of all the blessings in our life, moving into, OK, now we’re going to serve. When you start by thinking how much you are grateful for, it opens your heart that much more,” said Petre.

The students also prayed while completing the blankets, signifying that their recipients would be wrapped in love and prayer. The blankets were placed in the middle of the room while students approached separately, in a socially distanced manner, to tie the knots.

Laske also included diapers, wipes, stress balls, journals, pens and non-perishable food items in the comfort packets. “When the abused women are taken out of their homes, the children are left with nothing to hang onto,” he explained.

The students presented Laske with the blankets on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

“It was really nice because it was something that not just one group did. It was something the whole entire school did,” said Petre. “It was a blessing all around. It was a prayerful way for us to end our day, doing something that’s going to help a child.”