CHICAGO – Peter Ryckbosch came up with a novel way to spend part of his summer vacation.
He ironed 100 blankets.
What the senior men’s basketball player did was attach and iron on logos with a heart next to DePaul Blue Demons on blankets that were decorated on Tuesday by Blue Demon student-athletes during their annual community-service project. The blankets are donated to the children of the St. Vincent de Paul Center.
“I spent quite a few hours in the Athletics Academic Advising office ironing on the logos so the kids would know where the blankets are coming from,” said Ryckbosch whose blanket partner was volleyball senior Colleen Smith. “It was probably around 10 hours.
“At the time, I wasn’t doing very much because of an injury. I might as well do something productive to help people instead of watching Netflix or playing computer games.
“You get a sense of how much work you did when see how high the blankets are piled up. It feels good that I helped with each blanket. This is my fifth time making blankets, and it’s nice to see the impact this is going to have on all those kids. It’s important that along with your schoolwork and your athletics that you take time to help a lot of people.”
Did all that ironing turn Ryckbosch into a master of the task?
“I wouldn’t say this has changed my ironing skills very much” he said. “I’ll iron if something is really wrinkly. I very rarely iron pants.
“Actually, I’ve been looking to invest in a steamer for quite a while and I’m in the market for a good-priced one. The whole ironing board and warming up, that’s the big drawback for me. If I had a new system with a steamer, I’d be able to take my clothes to the next level.”
Cross country and track senior Paige Skorseth was making blankets for the fourth time in her career.
“What Peter did was awesome,” Skorseth said. “I tutor with him and have gotten to know him these last four years. He is a phenomenal student-athlete and a great role model for what we all aspire to become by embodying the university’s mission. I want to be a doctor and he’s going to be a nurse. It would be cool if worked together at the same hospital someday.”
Skorseth said the blankets project has provided her with new insight.
“I’ve learned what it means to help people after four years of community service,” she said. “You realize how this impacts your own life and it gives you a new perspective. Not everyone enjoys the same privileges we have and isn’t as fortunate as we are. All of Chicago has taught me so much.
“I’m from a small town where there aren’t homeless people walking around on the street. DePaul’s mission is that no matter what your status in life may be, you are fortunate to be a student-athlete at a great university, and it’s your responsibility to reach out and help others.
“All the community service I did here has impacted my career decision. I’m going into the medical field and want to give back to the community by helping people.”
Volleyball’s junior outside hitter Myah Reed had a good time at Tuesday’s event.
“I really enjoy this, and it’s quite an accomplishment to have the entire athletics department coming together to make blankets for the children of the St. Vincent de Paul Center,” Reed said. “It’s something that is unique to our school and makes you feel better doing something for somebody else.
“All the freshmen do an activity at the DePaul Center. My first year, I was part of the group that played games with the children in their gym. Another group of freshmen read books with the kids and the third group brought over the blankets. This instills within us the importance of community outreach.”
Reed said she has some experience with those less fortunate in life.
“I grew up in South Holland and went to a Chicago Public School on the South Side,” she said. “I grew up in a nice area but my high school was in a poorer environment. I could see the difference in lifestyles. Things I saw and all the news reports you hear, that part of the city is not the safest place.
“You hear about all the shootings, especially with little kids, and it’s so sad to see that. I’ve been blessed not to grow up like that. Now, I want to give back to them in any way I can. DePaul provides me with opportunities for community outreach, and I try to take advantage of it.”
Reed has worked in a soup kitchen, worked on Misericordia projects, did mulching on Service Day with the Chicago Park District, and walked the dogs for the Canine Rescue Unit.
“Whatever career I choose, I’m going to be involved with community service,” Reed said. “I’m going to make sure my own children become way more involved with that than I was as a child. I’m hoping to go into physical therapy or become an orthopedic nurse.”
Skorseth took a moment to reflect on the blanket-making experience.
“I remember as a freshman I was excited to get going, and this was a great way to get know your new teammates and other student-athletes,” Skorseth said. “It sets the stage for what being a DePaul student-athlete is all about with its emphasis on academics and community service. A project like this shows it really matters to them.
“As a senior, this is a nice way to cap off a career and to see how DePaul’s mission is embedded in you. There comes a time when you will carry on the mission into the real world.”