BALLSTON SPA — Blade Osborn was just 8-years-old the first time he accompanied his mom as she received her treatment at the Oncology Hematology Center in Latham. Sitting in the treatment area, he noticed how many older people were there all alone.
A caring little boy, Osborn’s heart went out to these people, struggling through what was likely the most difficult time of their lives. He was struck by one elderly gentleman seated alone in one corner of the room, his World War II veteran’s baseball cap perched on his head. It was obvious to Osborn that the man was feeling the side effects of his treatments, one of which is feeling very cold.
Osborn asked a nurse for a blanket and brought it over to the man. One of Osborn’s passions, even at 8, was history, especially war histories, and the man’s cap did not escape Osborn’s notice. He struck up a conversation with the man, whose name he didn’t know.
Osborn continued to accompany his mother to her treatments – three times a week, for six weeks. Each time, he would grab a blanket from the cabinet and seek out the veteran, whom Osborn referred to as “Buddy.” They would sit together for hours, as Buddy shared his stories about the war.
“We found out that Buddy’s family lived on the other side of the country and he had no one nearby. He was in his 80s, and Blade had such compassion for him. It really tugged at his heart to see this man going through treatment all alone,” said Elizabeth Osborn.
On his mother’s final day of treatment, Osborn bounded into the treatment area, excited to see his friend. Instead, what he saw was an empty treatment chair. He was never going to see his friend, Buddy, again. But the impact the elderly war veteran had is something he still cherishes today at the age of 17.
The relationship also had an enormous impact on Buddy, who told his family about the little boy with a huge heart.
“One of the nurses told us later that they received a letter from Buddy’s family, thanking them for taking care of their father and also thanking the ‘little blanket boy’ who brought so much peace, friendship and love to their dad, so that he wasn’t alone” Osborn’s mother said.
From that moment on, Osborn vowed he would do his best to ensure that veterans undergoing treatment for cancer or chronic illness all alone would never be cold. That was the birth of Buddy Blankets.
“Some hospitals don’t have blankets and patients have to bring their own with them when they come in for treatment,” Blade Osborn said. “Some patients don’t have a blanket to bring with them, and they don’t have the money to buy one.”
In the eight years since Osborn made that vow, more than 300 Buddy Blankets have been delivered to veterans undergoing medical treatment. He uses his own money that he earns from working as a private soccer coach to buy the blankets. He has also developed relationships with local stores, who donate blankets to the charity.
Osborn and his family deliver the blankets to hospitals and cancer treatment centers neatly rolled up and tied with a colorful ribbon and an attached note. The medical staff know which patients are alone and they make sure the blankets reach them.
Over the last eight years, Osborn has expanded his charity to include Buddy Bears. He said he hates seeing the sadness and loneliness of children whose parents are in the military and are absent for months at a time, sometimes longer.
He recalled seeing young children in the hospitals he has visited. Many of them had teddy bears to give them warmth, comfort and a sense of security. He decided that it would be a wonderful idea to give teddy bears to children who are enduring the absence of a beloved parent.
Then, in 2015, an offshoot of Buddy Bears – Tammy’s Buddy Bears – was created in memory of Elizabeth Osborn’s friend, whom she met while they were both undergoing cancer treatments. Tammy recently lost her battle with cancer and, for the Osborn family, her loss was particularly heartbreaking.
“Tammy was an RN for many years,” said Elizabeth Osborn, “and she was always so warm and compassionate toward others.”
The Osborns started Tammy’s Buddy Bears to bring comfort to children going through medical treatments or suffering from chronic illnesses. Today, Buddy Blankets and Bears Inc. is a registered nonprofit, and many of the blankets are donated during twice yearly drives held in July and December. In addition, Buddy Blankets and Bears receives monetary donations through their website and Facebook page.
Teddy bears are also donated from private and business sponsors in the region. In most instances, Osborn and his mother deliver blankets and bears whenever possible. However, they receive letters from people in different parts of the country, and he does not turn down a request for a bear.
It costs approximately $12 to ship a teddy bear. The Osborns decorate the exterior of the boxes with cheerful crayon drawings and package the bears in each child’s favorite color tissue paper. They top off the gift with a handwritten personalized note to each child.
Osborn said he hopes to continue to grow Buddy Blankets and Bears and reach as many people as possible, and his mother could not be more proud of her son.
“For an eight-year-old boy to show that much heart and compassion is just amazing,” she said.
Blade Osborn is a shining example of love in action. He plans to continue his mission of spreading peace, love comfort and joy to others, after he graduates from high school and enters college. Thanks to him, thousands of people will know they have not been forgotten and they do not have to be cold or alone.
If you are interested in learning more about Buddy Blankets & Bears or to make a donation, visit www.buddyblanketsandbears.com or email [email protected]. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram: Buddy Blankets & Bears, Inc.
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