Lucas Patrick Hardman was born almost eight years ago on May 21. His parents, Brian and Nicole, didn’t expect to have only weeks with their firstborn son.
He was diagnosed with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a rare genetic connective tissue disorder that makes the skin fragile, often resulting in tears or blisters.
Lucas passed away on June 24, 2011.
His parents wanted to do something special in his memory, especially during a time when the family grieved Lucas’ absence.
“Christmas Eve is a big day for my family,” Nicole Hardman says. “That was one of the hardest days since he died because we never got a holiday with him. We wanted to do something in his name on a day that is otherwise sad for us.”
In 2012, they began to collect blankets for UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, where Lucas received his care.
“We were thinking of our time in the NICU and we were given numerous soft, adorable baby blankets,” Hardman says, adding Lucas always had a blanket on top of him due to his fragile skin. “There was so much uncertainty. We just started to learn about about (his disorder) and when we got those blankets, it was a moment of calm and peace. We wanted to share that with other families.”
The Hardmans began their annual collection drive by just asking family members. The new blankets go directly to the child life specialists, who distribute them through the NICU and other parts of the hospital.
The project has grown to people donating inside and outside their Avon Lake community. In fact, the Hardmans have provided the hospital with more than 1,000 blankets since they began in 2012.
Doris Nettles, child life assistant for the family and child life services department at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, says families who receive a donated blanket, which the hospital receives from organizations and individual donors like the Hardmans, are so excited and love to get them.
“We the staff appreciate it,” Nettles says. “We try to do our best with every child here at Rainbow Babies and Children’s.”
“We look forward to it,” Hardman says. “I feel this is Lucas’ Christmas present to all these babies, I hope it makes him proud. It’s amazing every single year, I will have people come to me, asking if we are donating the blankets. We get packages in the mail full of blankets. People are so excited to pick up soft baby blankets — what a difference one baby blanket makes to a family.”