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Times of the Islands Magazine

Blanket Diplomacy: Hobby Turns Into An International Act of Kindness


Stella Warschauer would like to change the world, one baby blanket at a time. At 91, Stella has spent a few years crocheting the blankets for friends and family, but now she has a loftier goal: to distribute at least one of her blankets to every country in the world as an international display of American kindness.

From her home in Westerville, Ohio, Stella has crocheted approximately 375 baby blankets over the past several years. She intends to reach 500, including at least one blanket for each of the 195 countries of the world.

Each blanket takes about 12 hours to complete. Most have been given as gifts over the years. Stella had started a list of locations where these blankets had ended up, and an idea was born. At first her goal was to give one to someone in each of the 50 states in the U.S. It took several years to accomplish, but this milestone was finally reached. Then Stella broadened her sights.

Lurking in the back of her mind for a long time was the idea of the “ugly American.” Stella wondered if she could change that view with something as simple as a crocheted baby blanket. “What if I could find a way to give a baby blanket to someone in every country of the world… and my goodness, how many would that be?” she asked herself. The U.N. counts 195 countries in the world today. Stella believed this mission was obtainable, but how would she find the families to give her blankets to? With the help of her own family, the operation was launched.  

One daughter, Vickie, a nursing instructor, asked friends whose summers were free to travel if they would give a baby blanket to someone in whatever country they were visiting. Another daughter, Sanibel resident Linda Warschauer, was traveling the world for work, so she started delivering baby blankets wherever she went. The list began to grow, and several countries soon had a Stella blanket keeping a child warm at night. 

Stella and her daughter drafted a letter to go along with each baby blanket explaining why it was being donated and asking the recipient to send a picture of the baby with the blanket. They have received many pictures, along with the stories that accompany them. This is one of the best parts of the project, says Stella, seeing and reading about the children who are wrapped up in her blankets. 

Linda relates one story where a blanket was almost lost in translation. When she and her husband, Ken Burgener, were on a cruise, their room steward was from Montenegro, a country that had not yet received a Stella blanket. Linda explained to him what her mother was doing and asked whether he might want one of the blankets. He said he would have to call his wife in Montenegro to decide whether or not to accept the gift. Unsure why he needed to ask, Linda thought maybe the room steward did not fully understand English. She later showed him the blanket she wanted him to take to Montenegro. Sure enough, he had not quite understood her request. He thought Linda wanted him to take an actual baby back. They both had a great laugh.

Another misunderstanding occurred in Helsinki, Finland, where Ken and Linda approached a mother with a baby in a carriage at a local downtown market. The woman believed their offer to be some kind of scam. This was the only time that a blanket had been rejected. So, the quest continued until the couple found more accepting recipients later the same day, Carlotte and her 1½-year-old daughter Olivia. Carlotte later wrote to Stella:

“Dear Stella, I was approached by a lovely couple in Helsinki while having lunch with my daughter and mother-in-law. They handed me the beautiful blanket you have made. The mission you have is incredible and my daughter is so lucky and I am so grateful for being among the recipients. I can’t thank you enough! I wish you all the best and good luck on your mission.”

Linda and Ken have found other ways to distribute the blankets, including asking their friends to take the blankets along on their world travels. Sanibel shelling aficionado Pam Rambo and husband, Clark, travel the world in search of shells. In 2018, they stayed in a remote part of Huahine (Society Islands) in French Polynesia. “To explore the rest of the island, we had to take a water taxi to the main boat dock, then walk to the car rental company to rent a car for the day,” explains Pam. “Every day we set out for our beachcombing adventure, I put Stella’s baby blanket in my backpack.”

They were in search of not only treasures on the beach, but also a local baby. “We passed by village after village on our way to explore the next beach… no babies. On our sixth and last day, we were bound and determined to find a baby, so Clark drove slowly through every village and stopped at every market stand. No babies.” Finally, defeated in their quest, they returned their car and caught a ride to the boat dock to catch the water taxi back to their bungalow for the last time, when they saw a family with a baby walk out of the post office on the other side of the street. Without hesitation, their driver pulled over and waved the family down. With their driver translating, Pam explained to them why she wanted to give their baby a blanket from a sweet woman in the United States. “The family was dumbfounded by the crazy blonde lady (me), while Clark was in the car laughing at the whole scene,” says Pam. “They accepted the baby blanket with smiles. Our adventure was complete… seashells, beach treasures, experiencing life in a different culture and best of all, we found the perfect family for Stella’s beautiful blue baby blanket.” 

The blankets have made it to Africa as well. Last year in South Africa, Linda led a group of birdwatchers on a challenging four-wheel-drive adventure to seek out special birds at Sani Pass, a birding hot spot. At the top of the pass they crossed the border into Lesotho, a small country completely surrounded by South Africa. Linda had told the story of the blankets to her local guide, and he knew just the place to go. Leaving the rest of the group for a few minutes, they veered off the main road to a primitive little village with no electricity or water, where he introduced Linda to a grandmother with many grandchildren. Linda presented her with a peach-colored baby blanket. 

Stella is well on her way to making the world a better place with her simple act of kindness. She has fewer than 100 countries left to reach her goal of donating her baby blankets to every country in the world. Some will be difficult—like North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen to name a few—but it won’t be for a lack of trying.

If you would like to help, please contact Linda Warschauer at [email protected]

Ken Burgener is a world traveler. He was a sailboat captain in the Caribbean and has worked as a tour guide for Audubon, Dragonfly Expeditions, AAA, Greyhound and Road Scholars. He is the founder of Carefree Birding.  

Linda Warschauer is a retired scientist for the federal government. Her career took her to the far reaches of the world, from the Seychelles, Oman and Sri Lanka to Switzerland and Australia. She now hosts birdwatching cruises with Carefree Birding.


  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Benin
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Djibouti
  • East Timor
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Eswatini
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Granada
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Israel
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kiribati
  • Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Micronesia
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Mozambique
  • Nauru
  • Nigeria
  • Northern Ireland
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestine (Disputed)
  • Qatar
  • Rwanda
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • Suriname
  • Switzerland
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu
  • Vatican City
  • Western Sahara (Disputed)
  • Yemen


  • Antigua
  • Argentina
  • Aruba
  • Australia
  • Azores
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bonaire
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Carmeroon
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Columbia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Curacao
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • England
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Galapagos
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Grand Cayman
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Huahine (French Polynesia)
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Korea
  • Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Brunswick, Canada
  • New Caledonia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Norway
  • Ontario, Canada
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rica
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Scotland
  • Serbia
  • Sicily
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • St. Kitts
  • St. Maartens
  • St. Thomas
  • St. Vincent
  • Sweden
  • Tahiti
  • Taiwan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Tobago
  • Trinidad
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • Uzbekistan
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Wales
  • Zimbabwe