LODI, N.J. — A Lodi woman is keeping her sister's memory alive by keeping children undergoing cancer treatments warm.
Maria Lombardi launched the Michele Paci Blankets-4-Kids foundation a decade ago for young patients at the Joseph M. Sazari Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Cancer took Michele Paci a year earlier, leaving Lombardi to struggle adapting to life without her.
She then heard about blanket drives.
"I thought, 'Wow what a great idea,'" she said. "I thought it's not that hard to do."
Lombardi, who collects hundreds of blankets each year for the Tomorrows Children's Fund, once gathered 1,200. Most come in close to the holiday, she said.
Lombardi also helps organize a Christmas dinner most years for the children.
The donations show that Lodi is a "great little town," Lombardi said. "People are very kind and very giving It's an inexpensive gesture of kindness."
Many of the blankets are homemade but people can also buy them.
What matters is that each blanket is new, Lombardi said, because of the children's weakened immune systems.
Donors can also honor their own loved ones by sending a blanket in their name, along with a card.
TO DONATE: Blankets can be dropped off at Lombardi or her parent's homes, 73 James St. and 195 St. Joseph Boulevard, both in Lodi.