Two St. Francis DeSales High School students have learned some valuable life lessons about what it means to help others.
Kristen Sellan's grandmother was diagnosed with bone cancer, and she was so cold when she went to the hospital for treatment.
Stefanie Cochran's mother works at the Ohio State School for the Blind. When a marching band was formed and volunteers were needed to help the visually impaired musicians, Melanie Arnold volunteered her daughter.
The result is that the two St. Francis DeSales High School students have learned some valuable life lessons about what it means to help others.
Kristen, a freshman and the daughter of Barbara and Douglas Sellan of Westerville, loved her late grandmother, Mary Mondillo.
"She was really always caring and going to church and really, really religious," Kristen said.
When her maternal grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, Kristen felt the urge to help in some way. Mondillo complained about how cold she often was during increasingly frequent hospital visits.
"I knew that I couldn't really do anything to stop the cancer, but I wanted to do something for her," Kristen said.
So, using a kit from a fabric store, she made a blanket.
"She really liked it," Kristen said.
Actually, Mondillo loved the blanket, and took it with her to the hospital all the time. She would brag to the nurses that it had been made by her 13-year-old granddaughter.
"Even though it was just a little blanket, she did get a lot of smiling out of it because it kind of cheered her up," Kristen said.
After her grandmother died, she wanted to honor her memory and embarked on a project called "Cuddles from Kristen." She now makes blankets, sometimes with the help of friends at "blanket parties," for distribution to children at the local Ronald McDonald House.
"My mom was the one who came up with the idea of making the blankets for the Ronald McDonald House," Kristen said.
Last summer, Kristen and Barbara Sellan got to go on a tour of the Ronald McDonald House, which is near Nationwide Children's Hospital.
"I knew right then this was where I wanted the blankets to go," Kristen said.
The girl's service project has earned her several honors, including the President's Volunteer Service Award and a certificate of excellence from the 2009 Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
Senior Stefanie Cochran, the daughter of Thomas Cochran and Melanie Arnold, had her service effort more or less thrust upon her, she admitted.
"My mom kind of pushed me into it and so I went, but it became fun and so I stuck around," she said.
The 18-year-old Northland resident served as the helper for an eighth-grade trombone player at the School for the Blind named Billy.
Cochran admits that people were perplexed when she told them she was assisting a blind person who was in a marching band.
"They were confused," she said. "That was the first thing. I had to explain it, and once I explained it they thought, 'That's so cool.' "
Even cooler, Cochran and the other helpers got to travel with the band to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. This was after working with Billy for almost a year.
"It was just an accomplishment, almost like a partner type of thing," Cochran said. "It was a lot of fun."
The applause of the people lined up along the parade route, she added, is still practically ringing in her ears.
"Everybody was so encouraging, and it was very loud," she said. "I remember a time or two when we were in the parade that nobody could hear the instruments and didn't know where to go, so all the helpers started singing so they could hear us. We got a lot of standing ovations.
"It put a lot of smiles on a lot of the kids' faces. They were very excited."