2022 Update: Our outdoor blanket from Giving Tuesday 2021 (pictured below) is sold out, but we made another one this year. New blanket, same great cause.
The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become Giving Tuesday in the past decade – which means that most of us on the internet get a barrage of messages meant to pull on our heartstrings AND wallets. The cynical side of me thought it may have been another shopping holiday drummed up by marketing folks, but I was happy to be corrected by Google because it was created and incubated at New York's 92nd Street Y and its Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact. It was a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Anyway, this week is the unofficial (or official?) start of holiday season and for the past few years we have made something special and limited-edition to kick it off. This year, it is a very cool, very useful outdoor blanket. And trust me... you really do need this. I promise.
You may already have something similar, and if so, good for you. You are probably someone people describe as "smart" and "prepared." In general "prepared" wouldn't be a top adjective for me. I travel frequently with organized coworkers who carry things like wet wipes, Chapstick, Advil, tape measures in their tote bags. I, on the other hand, have a purse filled with squashed receipts, crumbs from the Biscoff cookies they give you on Delta flights, business cards I swore I would key into my phone contacts. But there is one thing I am always prepared for, and that is staying warm. Not just me, but anyone around me who might whine. The only thing worse than being cold is listening to someone else complain about being cold. I don't want to bore you with another Wisconsin story — but we did live there for 8 years — and one of the benefits of that time was discovering the wonders of a stadium blanket. A lot of outdoorsy companies make something like this: nylon on one side, fleece on the other. It turns out that keeping something warm and relatively waterproof in the trunk of your car is FANTASTIC.
When we started talking this fall about Giving Tuesday and what people could use – not just a special thing that we could make, but something that would truly earn its spot with a real reason to be – a really elevated version of a stadium blanket came to mind. Having one always made me feel like I was prepared – even if my own bag is a mess and I depend on others for hand cream and help with spills. I have used mine on the soccer field, the hard basketball bleachers, so many picnics, car trips, the occasional catch on the waterproof side when someone is carsick. (No joke, we once had a cat that would start to howl at the exact same bend in the road before getting sick. Like clockwork. If you have never heard a cat about to vomit, it is unmistakable. Eventually we knew to be ready with a towel, or sometimes the famous stadium blanket that could just be tossed in the wash.) I still have it twenty years later, though it has a few burn holes in it from sparklers gone awry.
So there are a lot of happy memories with the old fleece one from Lands' End. But I adore the one we have made. It has technical, water-resistant nylon taffeta on one side that won't soak through, even with a very thick dew, and it is cushioned inside with the recycled cashmere Cashpad fill that we have kind of gone crazy for. (Vests... outdoor jackets...indoor comforters... accessories... who knows what else we might stuff it into.) It is made in Italy, but feels a little American preppie with the old-school plaid that isn't quite identifiable to any Scottish clan, and not too holiday either, should you want to use it year-round. A yarn-dyed cotton twill with almost a madras feel. And machine-washable, which is huge. The whole thing is refined but still sporty and looks great all rolled up in your coat closet or the trunk of your car.
So if you don't already have a blanket like this, I can assure you, it is a worthy investment. And if you do, maybe an upgrade would be nice. But what might make it even better is knowing that it supports one of the most magical places this side of heaven. 20% of the sales of the Outdoor Blanket go to Hope Heals, which is a week-long respite not just for individual with disabilities, but their family members whose lives look so different from how they might have imagined. I went this past summer with my Louisa and Harriet and of course we all had the very best time. My own takeaway was that it normalized disability in a way I had never experienced before. It was beautifully low-key. There were major and minor disabilities represented there, but it was all just... easy. You cannot imagine how sweet and great it was to see a strapping, athletic high school kid choosing to volunteer and spend a week with a super hyperactive kid with autism, or pushing someone in a wheelchair who communicates mostly with facial expressions and noises rather than words. Disability was not celebrated, but LIFE was celebrated. I was in awe. The same things that anyone enjoys about summer camp were there in abundance. Nature... three meals a day that you did not have to cook... the sound of crickets when you go to sleep at night... friendship that holds you through til the next summer. For us, it was actually kind of life-changing.
summer 2021 at Hope Heals
Of course there are so many great causes and organizations, and as a company, we give to several others at different times of the year. But this place and community have become personal to me in a way that I really want to share. I need it, our daughters need it, and everyone there needs it. The connection between this blanket and Hope Heals is pretty simple: both celebrate being together outdoors and both have been surprisingly important to our family. And you know, if ever there was a year for outdoor gatherings...