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Liberty Benton Middle School students make gifts for NICU babies

In March WTOL 11 asked our crochet friends to get to work to help babies in the NICU. A local teacher was listening and brought the idea to her students.

FINDLAY, Ohio — Celeste Eirich, or "Mrs. E" to her seventh grade students, is proficient in crocheting, stitching and sewing, and her students are catching up. 

They're making adorable octopus snuggies for babies in the ProMedica Ebeid Children's Hospital NICU.

"The way babies calm themselves is they hold onto things," ProMedica occupational therapist Hannah Taltan said. "There's lots of tubes for them to hold onto that we don't want them to because they need those. So if we can give them a little octopi to hold onto, it takes their hands away from tubes they shouldn't be holding onto."

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Enough said. Mrs. E was ready to get working. She brought the idea back to some of her students she knew could also crochet, and they were in. 

"I was a preemie baby myself," student Jaylin Gaster said. "Even though I wasn't in the NICU, I still think it's super duper special to make these for them.

Mrs. E appreciates her students volunteering their time.

"They willingly give up their lunch to do the project for the babies," she said.

It wasn't just the students who already knew how to crochet. Others wanted to know how they could help. 

The group of eight students - Emma Hertel, Adelyn Clymer, Reagan Niese, Jaylin, Bella Flippin, Zoe Smith, Sanjana Indupuru and lone boy, Cimmaron "Cim" Chadwell  - call themselves the "Knotters and Stitchers." 

They're also making flannel quilts to cover the NICU bassinets.

"The stitching, I just learned from my amazing teacher who taught most of us," Clymer said.

Sanjana said she enjoys helping out.

"Honestly, I've always been interested in community service," she said. "So I thought this was a really great way to do it. It's just some kind of satisfaction you get in helping others."

Turns out, they're pretty good at it. Mrs. E had a hard time keeping up with demand.

"'We need another blanket, We need another blanket,'" Eirich said. "So I would go home and run to the fabric store, buy more fabric. Then I would put the blankets together and they would do the old-fashioned knot quilting."

In all, they made 24 blankets and 31 octopi.

"They're working from the heart," Eirich said.

They're not just any octopi. These guys have personality and are outfitted with a different hat and color scheme.

"My sister was a preemie, so we know that road is really tough, but there's a little hope now," Adelyn said.

The students wrapped their gifts for Mrs. E to deliver to the NICU, which were received with open arms. 

"It's amazing that they are able to think of babies and think of other people and just give back to these babies. It's amazing," Taltan said.

Mrs. E couldn't be more proud of her students and rightfully so. 

"They're awesome with a capital 'A-W-E-S-O-M-E,' capitalized, underlined, bold letters and neoned.

RELATED: Know how to crochet? Here's how you can help the ProMedica Ebeid Children's Hospital

Families will be able to take the octopi home with them as a token of their strength and what they went through in the NICU. 

Mrs. Eirich wants to continue the project over the summer with the students and also teach some how to sew. 

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