young Ashley Imbrogno still ‘Warming the Hearts’

After a reaction to a childhood immunization caused her to be hospitalized, Ashley was given a teddy bear by a little guess factory boy who had cancer. The little boy was much sicker than she was and still had a smile on his face.

Ashley named the bear Hope and began to think about giving back to the children who are hospitalized.

The idea for Warming the Hearts began while working with her grandmother on a fleece blanket that required no sewing as a Christmas present for her father.

The dou guess factory ble layer fleece blankets are fringed all the guess factory way around and tied together to form a soft warm layer of fabric. Ashley talked with her mother about giving back and Warming the Hearts was born.

The project is an effort to give the easy to make fleece blankets to hospitalized children.

That was five years ago, and Ashley has seen her program grow from 350 blankets delivered five years ago to this year’s 1,200 blankets.

“Sometimes it is difficult because I’ve been taunted about it (the project),” Ashley said with a smile.

not let even a little teasing stop her. Ashley already has appeared on all the major Cleveland television stations talking about her project an guess factory d has involved area businesses, including Sam’s Club, Walmart and Kohl’s.

Hope the teddy bear disappeared while Ashley was participating as grand marshal of the “It’s Better in Mentor Days” parade in September 2009.

“I’m still kind of upset about losing my teddy bear. He was the mascot,” Ashley said. Until he was lost, Hope can be seen in all the pictures of Ashley while she is promoting her project.

This year was special as Ashley was able to take part in Disney’s “Give a Day Get A Day.” Participating with Disney brought in more than 1,200 blankets that account for the entire 2010 holiday delivery.

“I don’t think of it as community service. The holidays are not all about getting. They are about giving,” she said.

Because of the project, Ashley was featured in Disney’s Eyes and Ears Magazine and was a grand marshal in a parade at Disney World in June, said her mother, Karen Imbrogno.

Ashley also has been chosen to participate in People to People through her school, St. Gabriel’s, in Concord Township. She will travel to Italy, Greece and Paris as a student ambassador this summer.

The Imbrognos have some of the blankets bagged and ready to be delivered. Each blanket is in a plastic bag, and stacked neatly in large brown paper bags normally used for bagging leaves in the fall. The bags cover about half of the basement floor in her home. Ashley has bagging parties with her friends on Sundays for two or three weeks shortly before the holiday delivery.

“We have delivered 1,000 to Rainbow Babies and Children’s alone in the past five years,” Karen Imbrogno said.

Nothing goes to waste, as the smaller scraps have been sewn into patchwork blankets for infants in intensive care, and the longer strips of material have been crocheted into rugs that will be distributed to shelters.

Warming the Hearts will give the blankets to Project Hope, USO, MetroHealth Medical Center, Hospice of the Western Reserve, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic.

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