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Grieving Alberta family pays it forward to others dealing with loss

Gifts of warmth and comfort: Grieving Alberta family pays it forward to others dealing with loss
WATCH: It was a special delivery that came to an Alberta family in the most desperate of times -- they were navigating the final days with their loved one dying from cancer. As Jill Croteau reports, the cherished gift inspired an initiative that will support families just like them.

It was an unexpected package that arrived in the mailbox of Caroline Stephenson and her husband Reid Schmidt.

Schmidt was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had a brain tumour and wasn’t given much time to live.

Reid Schmidt.
Reid Schmidt. Courtesy: Caroline Stephenson

“When he started to get confused, I immediately knew it was not going to be a good outcome,” Stephenson said.

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“Reid never did anything halfway. It was a nasty tumour.”

A friend she hadn’t spoken to since high school had sent them a handmade quilt with a note attached. It was a welcome comfort in those final days of Reid’s life.

Original quilt that inspired the legacy project.
Original quilt that inspired the legacy project. Jill Croteau/Global News

“We cuddled under that blanket and it became the place where people could go sit with him, snuggle under it and re-live some memories,” Stephenson said. “It became very important to the family.”

Stephenson/Schmidt family photo.
Stephenson/Schmidt family photo. Courtesy: Caroline Stephenson

Schmidt’s stepdaughters, Amanda Stephenson and Brit Edwards, were so grateful for this gift from a woman they’d never even met.

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“It consumes you. It’s all you think about,” Edwards said.

“Having someone outside the cancer bubble showing they love and care — it just really warmed us.”

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“You’re so sad and you know what’s coming. Every day we are fighting to get Reid to the next day and this blanket came and the note, it touched us,” Stephenson said.

It helped protect them, just for a moment, from their inevitable reality of losing Reid.

“It was a little light that was flickering in the dark,” said daughter-in-law Carolyn Stephenson.

Together, these women were so inspired by this gift, they wanted to make blankets for brain cancer patients and their families.

Stacks of handmade blankets.
Stacks of handmade blankets. Jill Croteau/Global News

They are raising funds for The Reido Project. They hope to make 60 blankets and deliver them to unit 112 at Foothills Hospital. It’s the neurology ward where Reid spent so much time.

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Caroline and Amanda Stephenson walking onto Unit 112 at Foothills Hospital.
Caroline and Amanda Stephenson walking onto Unit 112 at Foothills Hospital. Jill Croteau/Global News

“We are a man down on our team now but at the same time, this is allowing us to continue his legacy,” Edwards said.

It was Reid’s giving spirit that’s giving them the strength to do this.

“He was so quietly charitable. He didn’t need fanfare,” Stephenson said. “He would be so proud.”