Future educator hones leadership skills, gives back with student organization 'Blankets for Bronson'

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Caitlin Darrah is making a difference with her registered student organization (RSO), Blankets for Bronson at WMU. A student in WMU's early childhood unified education program, she is applying the skills she learned from the program to make her a more effective leader as her club continues to make blankets for patients at Bronson Methodist Hospital.

Darrah started Blankets for Bronson at WMU as a continuation of her passion of donating blankets to hospital patients. This passion was inspired by a close family friend who started donating blankets to patients who were at Bronson at the same time as their daughter. The friend then created a Facebook page sharing her experience, and it motivated Darrah's family to start making blankets. In high school, Darrah continued making blankets for volunteer hours and invited friends to join in the experience. 

"I came into college, and I still really liked making blankets," says Darrah. "I don't care if it is for volunteer hours; I just really like donating blankets to kids in the hospital. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and started a club." 

The RSO hosts monthly hour-long meetings where members meet to craft blankets and write cards for hospital patients. In their first year, the club was able to donate 35 blankets to Bronson. Darrah believes this number will easily be beat next year as members of the club will have more experience, and there's a potential for more members to join as the RSO becomes more established. 

Although identifying as an introvert, Darrah believes what she has learned so far in her major has already made her more comfortable as a leader and public speaker. She hopes as the program continues, she will be prepared to lead her own classroom of students as a future educator.

"My major related classes have definitely helped me with my leadership skills, problem solving and learning how to be patient," says Darrah. "I've always had a deep sense of wanting to volunteer, and my major is teaching me how to be of service to children."

Darrah's leadership skills have already been recognized by the university. During the 2023 Golden Bronco Awards for RSOs, hosted by the Office of Student Engagement, Darrah was the recipient of the First Year Student Leader Award. The award honors first year students at WMU who have made a significant impact as the leader of a RSO.

According to Darrah, her passion for making blankets will not end after graduating from WMU. Instead, she plans to incorporate the spirit of volunteerism into her future classroom and have students craft blankets like she did at their age.

"I feel it like it is really important to have children helping other children," says Darrah.

If you are interested in learning more or joining Blankets for Bronson at WMU, contact Caitlin Darrah.

Early childhood education at wmu

WMU’s nationally accredited Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Unified Education prepares candidates for teaching and leadership positions in settings that serve children from birth through third grade. Experienced faculty members mentor candidates to develop an effective balance of research, theory and practice in diverse educational settings. WMU offers multiple clinical experiences and a final internship which are spread across infancy through third grade and take place in private and public settings within diverse communities. 

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.