We Honor Veterans: A different kind of fish story

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Averie Mortimer holds up one of the no-sew patriotic blankets she created and then donated to our We Honor Veterans program.

Averie Mortimer holds up one of the no-sew patriotic blankets she created and then donated to our We Honor Veterans program.

Averie Mortimer, 12, was in the car with her mother, Tracy Mortimer, headed out to purchase a pet fish and supplies with her allowance when they got a call from her older sister, Lauren Scharch. The director of activities at Genesis Healthcare in Annapolis, Scharch called to tell them that she learned that Hospice of the Chesapeake was in great need of patriotic blankets to give to our Veterans during their Honor Salutes.

“Mom, we can do it right now!” Averie said. Suddenly, she didn’t need to buy the fish. Instead, she wanted to spend the money on the fabric to make blankets.

The proud mom happily changed course for the fabric store where they discovered that the no-sew blanket kits Averie had in mind were on sale and she was able to purchase four with her fish money. Tracy also purchased some kits, and the duo delivered the blankets in September, with plans to make more.

The Mortimers profess a true love for Veterans and the military. Averie said her grandfathers are both Veterans – one served in the Navy while the other served in the Army. And her brother-in-law serves in the Army. The Centerville Middle School seventh-grader is actually a veteran of serving Veterans and active-duty military. She has written Christmas cards for deployed troops and, as a member of American Heritage Girls, she would stand out by the side of the road for fallen military during their final ride from Dover Air Force base to their final resting place. She talked the powerful feeling of community she experienced, seeing the families riding in the funeral procession, looking out through their car windows at people holding flags and saluting their loved one. “That was gut-wrenching,” Averie said.

“It’s a sense of belonging. You really know what you’re doing when you thank a Veteran. This is a small thing, just to let them know, we don’t know their name, who they are, what they did, but we love them.” — Tracy Mortimer

The need for quilts, blankets and afghans as well as children’s Thank You cards has never been greater. With a daily patient census nearing 600, we are caring for around 150 Veterans every day. Three quarters of the way through 2020, we had facilitated more than 200 Honor Salutes, most of them virtual. We have a dedicated corps of We Honor Veterans Volunteers who help to deliver the kits, but we need more, especially in Prince George’s County. Monetary gifts also are needed to pay for the framed certificates and American flag pins as well as for the totes in which they are delivered.

Director of Advancement and Volunteer Services Chris Wilson said we have many stories about Volunteers who do amazing things for our Veteran patients, but Averie’s story is exceptional because she is only 12 years old and already has such a deep passion for honoring men and women who have served in the military. “We hope that Averie’s spirit can inspire others in our community to find ways to give,” Wilson said. “If a middle-schooler can give up her chore money and time  to create blankets that will be treasured by Veterans and their families, imagine what could be done if someone were to skip a couple of coffee runs to pay for 10 flag pins or worked on quilts while catching up on Netflix?”

Fortunately for us, Averie’s passion for Veterans is contagious. When her neighbors learned about her patriotic blankets, they wanted to help out, too, and gave her enough money to make four to six more quilts. “I was almost in tears when my neighbor gave us the money,” Averie said. “I love our Veterans and I wanted to help them.”

She also learned about our need for the handmade Thank You cards that Veterans receive during the Honor Salute and is intent on helping out there, too. “I will go to my church and we’ll make cards and notes for the Veterans.”

Averie’s mother understands why Averie has such commitment and dedication to caring for those who have served in the military. “It’s a sense of belonging. You really know what you’re doing when you thank a Veteran,” Tracy said. “This is a small thing, just to let them know, we don’t know their name, who they are, what they did, but we love them.”

To donate patriotic blankets or Thank You cards, contact Renate Little at 443-837-1512 or rlittle@hospicechesapeake.org. To donate funds, contact Megan Lawton at 443-837-1531 or mlawton@hospicechesapeake.org.

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