Local Young Life launches ‘Blanket Federal Way’ fundraising drive and charity event

Through the end of the year, Federal Way Young Life is holding a charity fundraiser with a goal to donate 1,000 blankets to local people experiencing homelessness.

“Blanket Federal Way” aims to sell 1,000 wool blankets from Salem, Oregon, based retailer “Sackcloth & Ashes” over this month and December to local residents, according to Todd Zern, area director of Federal Way Young Life.

However many blankets are sold, an equal number will then be donated by Sackcloth & Ashes. Federal Way Young Life will take those donations and manage distributing them to people in need, Zern said.

Sackcloth & Ashes is a premium blanket founded by former Young Life participant Bob Dalton. According to the company’s website, Dalton’s passion comes from his own mother, who was homeless for a period of his youth.

When he called homeless shelters, the common request he heard was for blankets, which led to him founding Sackcloth & Ashes. For every blanket sold, the company donates an additional blanket to a local homeless shelter, and the company aims to donate one million blankets by 2024 through its “Blanket the United States” campaign.

The local Young Life branch is aiming to sell at least 1,000 blankets and hence donate 1,000 more, but there’s no cap to the amount.

“This is our first time doing this,” Zern said. “This is a step of faith, but also with a vision.”

Young Life is a Christian organization with branches around the world. The Federal Way Branch puts on a golf tournament and several seasonal camps for young people.

“We are a group of adult mentors who love teenagers,” Zern said. “Reminding them they are loved, seen and heard and valued. Yes, we do share our faith in Jesus, but the primary foundation that young life leaders have is building a relationship with teenagers.”

The blankets are already sold on Sackcloth & Ashes’ website and in some retailers. Those sold through the Young Life Federal Way campaign will cost the same price, but half of the proceeds will go to Young Life Federal Way, Zern said, so buying the blankets through the program ensures more of your money sticks around locally.

At $120 per blanket and a goal of $1,000 blankets, and considering costs and other factors, that comes out to around $50,000 Young Life hopes to raise from the blanket drive for its local programming.

Zern said that funds raised will go toward their general ministry and operating fund, which helps them run clubs and events at schools and put on bigger events. The local Young Life branch just wants to play its small part in helping the community, Zern said.

“We want to engage with and be in the community as well,” Zern said. “That’s our vision. We’re not going to solve all the world’s problems, but we are going to engage. … It’s part of walking together with teenagers, the community, the Federal Way School District and families who are in need. We’re really excited about it. We don’t know exactly where this is going to take us but we have a ton of faith something tremendous is going to happen through this effort.

In January, Young Life Federal Way plans and hopes to receive the thousand (or more) blankets to distribute them to families experiencing homelessness, whether that means folks who are unsheltered, living in hotels or couch surfing, Zern said.

To learn more or buy a blanket, visit fwyl.link/blanket2022. For blankets ordered by Dec. 1, Young Life will be able to mail out or hand them off by Dec. 10, Zern said. Blankets bought after Dec. 1 will still be delivered but may not arrive in time for Christmas. The last day of their fundraiser is Dec. 31.