Tied with love, in memory of Harper

Released: 03/07/17

Kathy Riehle of Spillville regularly provides Winneshiek Medical Center with tied, fleece blankets in memory of her granddaughter, Harper. Kathy (right) is pictured with Holly Kanengieter, coordinator of the WMC Foundation, who accepts the donation on behalf of the medical center.

Kathy Riehle of Spillville enjoys making tied, fleece blankets. But for her, it is more than just a hobby; Kathy makes blankets in memory of her young granddaughter, Harper, who passed away in 2013. “It’s my therapy,” says Kathy. “When I tie the blankets, I think of Harper.” When Kathy accumulates a boxful of blankets, she brings them to Winneshiek Medical Center. The WMC Foundation attaches special messages to the blankets and distributes them to departments where they can be given to children who are in the hospital.

This past fall, during the flooding in northeast Iowa, Kathy received some feedback on her blankets in an unexpected way. She says, “Our family had donated a park bench in memory of Harper, and placed it in Riverside Park in Spillville. During the flooding, it washed away. My daughter put a message out on Facebook that if the bench turned up in someone’s yard, to please contact us.”

Kathy’s daughter received a surprising message in return. “A woman sent a message back asking if the ‘Harper’ named on the bench was the same Harper whose name was on the tags on the children’s blankets at Winneshiek Medical Center,” says Kathy. “My daughter said yes, both were in memory of the same little girl. The woman went on to say that her child had been a patient at Winneshiek Medical Center and had gotten sick all over her favorite blanket they had brought from home. The nurse brought one of Harper’s tied blankets into the room for the child, and from that moment on, it was her new (and favorite) ‘Harper Blanket’.”   Kathy continues, “The women said that the blanket – and Harper – now go everywhere with her daughter.”

Holly Kanengieter, WMC Foundation Coordinator, says the medical center has a need year-round for small blankets for pediatric patients – a need that Kathy and other donors fill. The blankets are given to comfort children who may not be feeling well or need some extra reassurance while in the hospital. She said, “We love that Kathy shares the special blankets – and the meaningful story behind them – each year. We remember and celebrate Harper each time a child cuddles with one of the blankets.”

For more information on how you can partner with the WMC Foundation and impact patient care at Winneshiek Medical Center, visit www.winmedical.org/giving or call the Foundation Office at 563-387-3129.

Note: Soon after the 2016 flood receded, a clean-up crew found Harper’s bench buried in debris not far from the park. Kathy’s family retrieved the bench, cleaned it up, and plan to return it to its home in the park this spring.

Return to Press Room