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Muskegon woman taps ‘the Force’ to comfort grieving organ donor families

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Andrea Powers of Muskegon is on a mission to create 75 comfort blankets in honor of her sister-in-law, Michele. Muskegon, MI – In Andrea Powers’ home, Star Wars characters have joined groups of knitted owls, bees and elephants. Combined with a growing pile of blankets and quilts, they will be donated to Gift of Life Michigan and given to families of organ donors in honor of her sister-in-law.

“It gives me some comfort and it gives me something to do to help pass the time,” she said. “It’s my way of giving hope. I can’t stand the thought of other families grieving like we did.

“I’ve always been a caring person,” she added. “If I can help someone, I want to help someone.”

Her sister-in-law, Michele Hentschel of Wyoming, MI, a registered organ donor, died in a tragic accident in November of 2018. Always fit, active and healthy, Michele was able to help 75 people through her gifts of life. Her family was even able to donate her hair to Locks of Love.Andrea Powers

“Everything that we could have donated, we did,” Powers said. “She would have wanted it that way.”

Powers set out to create 75 comfort blankets in honor of Michele and the 75 people she helped. She’s created 58 adult-sized blankets so far, using the skills her grandmother taught her as a teen, as well as several ‘lovie blankets,’ which are designed for children and have three-dimensional animal figures knitted into them. She’s also created stuffed animals and Star Wars figures based on patterns she’s seen on YouTube. The idea came from a comfort blanket her brother received after Michele passing.

“It’s been a very large comfort to him,” she said. “I thought if it brought that much comfort to him, how much comfort would it bring to other families?”

A caregiver for an adult who is on the autism spectrum, she is still working through the “Stay safe, stay home” executive order issued recently by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the wake of the spreading COVID-19 virus. But the additional time has allowed her to step up her already prodigious efforts – she estimates that she now spends about eight hours every day knitting her creations.

Andrea uses patterns found on Youtube for her creations. A registered organ donor herself, Powers said her family’s tragedy is another example of why it’s important to sign up on the Donor Registry. There are currently nearly 2,800 people in Michigan waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.A hand-knitted Chewbacca doll will bring comfort to a grieving child.

“If you’re not an organ donor you need to sign up to be an organ donor,” she said. “It’s so important. It means so much to so many people. Why would you not want to do something to help people?”

She said she’s happy to be doing her part, one blanket, quilt or fuzzy friend at a time. It also helps keep the memory of Michele alive.

“I miss her every day. She was an amazing person; she had the biggest smile and she would do anything to help anyone,” she said. “If the situations were reversed, she would be doing the same thing.”

"Lovie blankets" have animals knitted into them. April is National Donate Life Month (NDLM), established by Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003. National Donate Life Month helps to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to honor those that have saved lives through the gift of donation. For more on Gift of Life Michigan’s Donate Life Month activities, visit our Facebook page.

About Gift of Life Michigan
Gift of Life Michigan is a federally designated organ procurement organization that serves the state of Michigan as the intermediary between donors, their families and hospital staff. In collaboration with Eversight, Gift of Life provides all services necessary for organ, eye and tissue donation. For more information, or to sign up on the Donor Registry, visit www.golm.org or call 866.500.5801.

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