Joyce Zawaly's creation that netted her a nomination for a Jefferson Award could be considered warm and fuzzy.

Joyce Zawaly's creation that netted her a nomination for a Jefferson Award could be considered warm and fuzzy.

Zawaly, a longtime teacher at Deer Run Elementary School, has been nominated for a Jefferson Award for the creation of "I've Been In Your Chair," a group that distributes blankets to chemotherapy patients.

The Jefferson Awards were created in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and U.S. Sen. Robert Taft Jr. to recognize people in the community who do extraordinary things that normally go unnoticed.

The nomination "humbled and honored" Zawaly, who started the group four years ago after she recovered from breast cancer.

"Many, many family members, friends and colleagues were so very supportive during the time of my surgery and treatments for breast cancer, including my daughter-in-law, Sarah, and her sister, Karen, who both made blankets for me to use during treatments to combat the chilling effect of the chemotherapy drugs and the loss of my hair," Zawaly said.

After completing chemotherapy, the 64-year-old Dublin resident felt the need to give back to people going through the same situation.

"Colorful fleece blankets seemed the perfect way to offer support and comfort," Zawaly said.

Outreach is also a big part of the organization.

"A major part of letting a patient choose whatever blanket appeals to them is for me to reach out, hold their hand and tell them that others are praying for them and thinking of them," Zawaly said. "I let them know that the blanket is an extra pair of arms giving them a hug whenever they need one. Because I have been in their chair, receiving chemotherapy, I can truly empathize with them and, at the same time, show them that there can be healing, there can be hope, which is what every cancer survivor is praying for."

Zawaly estimates she has provided 500 to 600 blankets over the past four years, and she's had help in crafting them.

"I knew that for my project to be successful, I needed help in making the no-sew blankets; therefore, I began holding blanket bees. First I presented my idea to my friends and colleagues at Deer Run, and our first bee resulted in about 40 blankets," she said. "Soon thereafter, I approached the Deer Run Girl Scout troops, and they held a bee resulting in another large amount of blankets. Davis Middle School's SPARK group also took on my project and has consistently been my partner."

Blanket bees also have been held by employees in the Dublin City Schools' central office, Zawaly's own students, the Coffman girls lacrosse team and a cancer patient who had received a blanket from "I've Been In Your Chair."

"I will continue with my project," Zawaly said, "and hold blanket bees because, unfortunately, there are always patients who need that extra hug and healing touch."

Anyone interested in hosting a blanket bee or donating a blanket should call Zawaly at (614) 889-9282.

Zawaly and other Jefferson Award nominees will be honored during an April 5 celebration.