ASTRA’s “Blankets for a Better Tomorrow” Project Wins Altrusa Service Award

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Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

The Green Bay Altrusa Club couldn’t have had better timing.   

At the very least, the senior who started Blankets for a Better Tomorrow can graduate knowing the ASTRA project brought some sense of accomplishment and recognition to NDA–all at a time when too much news is pandemic-negative. 

Altrusa, an international non-profit club, recently announced NDA’s ASTRA Club was the district conference first-place winner for its service project called Blankets for a Better Tomorrow. 

“As the District first-place winner,” said Altrusa board member Mary Hanzel, “your entry will go on to compete at the International Convention next year in July 2021.” 

Blankets for a Better Tomorrow, a project started three years ago by senior Sydney Ditscheit, has grown into an ASTRA club project that involved over 240 hours of service and over 65 volunteers.

Ditscheit, ASTRA president, answered a few questions about the project that started as a personal endeavor and grew into a club event her junior year. 

Q. How did this project get started?  Whose idea was it?

A. I started the service campaign my sophomore year in response to a tragic UTV accident that my sister and I were in. I spent several days in the hospital, and when I was there, I received a blanket. Later on, I wanted to give back to the hospital that helped my family and  me during our time of need, and I wanted to help other children in the hospital.  I decided to create Blankets for a Better Tomorrow to provide blankets as a source of hope and joy to these children in the hospital and their families. 

Q. So how does the project work?  Who makes the blankets?  Where does funding come from?  Who delivers the blankets?

A. So far, 105 blankets have been made at three blanket-tying events by the help of over 65 volunteers! Initially, I was funding solely on GoFundMe. I was able to organize a second blanket-tying event, however, with money from a “Summer of Service” grant that I received from YSA and Disney. I just started a new GoFundMe page to continue raising money for future projects, which can be found at gf.me/u/xzqyz5. Any contribution is greatly appreciated! My family has helped me deliver the blankets made so far to the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison and to St. Vincent’s here in Green Bay.

Q. How did you find out about the competition with Altrusa? 

A. Mary Hanzel from the Altrusa House shared with me the information for the scholarship. There was an individual portion and a portion for the club. The scholarship for the club was to win $100 for our ASTRA club here at school, and the prompt was to write about your favorite ASTRA event. Obviously, I chose Blankets for a Better Tomorrow because it was the project that I started from the ground up and was blessed to turn into an ASTRA event my junior year. 

Q. What has been the biggest takeaway for you as the ASTRA president?  How has this role affected who you are as a person, as a leader, or even as a Christian? 

A. My favorite part of being ASTRA president this year is definitely seeing the events come together. Sometimes I work with Mr. Kriegl and the other ASTAR leaders for months ahead of time organizing events, so when I see students signing up for events at the monthly meetings, I know that they’re going to make a difference to someone in our community. Others’ passion to serve never ceases to inspire me to do more.