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May 23, 2012 10:30:00 AM

Quilts Soothe Children of Deployed Soldiers

Alaska | CBS 11 | May 23, 2012

Volunteers quilt reminders of children’s overseas parents

By Heather Hintze

ANCHORAGE - Every year thousands of soldiers deploy overseas, leaving behind their families.

The Armed Services YMCA tries to ease the separation for kids by giving them a piece of their mom or dad to hold on to.

For the Groen family, home is where the Army sends them.

That means Autumn and her two boys are living in Anchorage while husband and father Josh is fighting overseas in Afghanistan.

She's no stranger to separation.

Josh was in Korea when she went into labor with Ryder, but made it home just in time for the birth of his first son.

But this is the first time Autumn is left to raise two kids on her own.

“You kind of get used to it and figure out what works and what doesn't work. But the first few months are trial and error,” she said.

Gavin is just a year and a half old, and his mom worries he won't remember what his father looks like after months away from home.

The Anchorage Log Cabin quilters work to spark those memories.

“It brings a tear to your eye. The kids feel like there's a part of mom or dad there with them and it's fantastic,” said quilter Kay Baehr.

These women volunteer their time and sewing skills to make quilts for kids with a mom or dad overseas.

But there's something special about these quilts: Each one is custom-made with fabric pictures, which gives the ladies insight into the family a soldier had to leave behind.

“As I was working on the quilt, I was talking to little Ryder. We bonded. He's a cute little boy and I hope he enjoys it as much as I have putting it together,” said quilter Peggy Brewer. “It's been a pleasure.”

The Armed Services YMCA distributed hundreds of quilts through the "Kid Comfort" program over the past year, and the orders keep pouring in.

Each hand crafted quilt is hand delivered.

“It will be awesome for [the boys] to have their own pictures of their dad they can look at whenever they want, instead of asking me to see them,” said Autumn Groen.

The boys waste no time finding creative ways to use the blanket.

They hunker down for a nap, but are too excited to sleep. They’ll have a piece of their dad close by their side, until the Army sends him home for good.

Josh and Autumn were married seven years on Tuesday, so we wish them a happy anniversary from KTVA.

Josh will be home next month, and the family moves to Georgia in August for his new job with the military.