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Blankets provided by Naperville nonprofit offer support to grieving parents: ‘You have something that has touched the skin of your child’

May 23, 2024May 23, 2024

It’s a blanket that continues to inspire.

Little did Laura Pepmeyer know that when she bought it in Naples, Florida, in 2014 as a Christmas present for her then-unborn grandson, Camden Humes, it would turn out to be a blessing for countless parents.

The grey blanket with white polka dots on one side and plaid on the other was the inspiration for Naperville-based Camden’s Comfort Project, which provides comfort blankets to sick babies in intensive care units in hospitals. Thousands of blankets have been donated over the past eight years.

This particular blanket served Alex and Lauren Humes during a heartbreaking time on Nov. 1, 2014, when Camden was prematurely born and lived just 25 hours.

Lauren knew time with Camden was limited.

“We had to rush to the hospital,” she said. “He was fighting for his life, and we had no time to prepare. He was 30 weeks along and it was far enough along to deliver but not enough where you have a bag packed and ready to go. We didn’t have what we needed.”

Alex and Lauren Hume, of Naperville, were comforted by a gift blanket they could use to wrap up their prematurely born son during the hours before he died. It's a keepsake that inspired their Camden's Comfort nonprofit group. (Camden's Comfort/HANDOUT)

Not even a blanket.

Lauren’s parents, who live in Galesburg, were vacationing in Florida and raced to Chicago to get to experience at least a little time with their grandson.

That’s when they gave the blanket to Camden and his mother. Through her grief, Lauren started thinking of the thousands of other babies and parents in similar situations.

“It felt like the universe was speaking to us,” she said. “It was like a light bulb went off.

‘It was so special to have that blanket in the hospital where we cuddled with Camden, and it was something that touched his skin. We were able to bring that home with us when we couldn’t bring our baby home with us. That was a critical piece of priceless comfort.”

In 2015, Camden’s Comfort was formed. The nonprofit now serves the Chicago, Peoria, St. Louis and Quad Cities areas.

All because of that gray, polka dot blanket.

“The fact she had that with her was exactly what we needed at that moment,” Lauren said of her mother’s gift. “It was such a comfort to have that baby blanket. We realized that we were going to have to say goodbye and the spark for us was I couldn’t imagine anyone else not having that blanket.”

Alex and Lauren moved from Chicago to Naperville and since Camden’s death, they have had two children, 6-year-old Bryant and 5-year-old Nora. They both help with the Camden’s Comfort project.

Naperville residents also pitch in making the blankets or providing money.

“I’ve met so many neighbors who want to help and support us,” Lauren said. “It’s been amazing. With Bryant going to school, we are meeting even more people who want to help.

“We are hitting our stride in the community.”

Board members for the Naperville-based Camden’s Comfort nonprofit celebrated donating their 5,000th blanket earlier this year. (Camden's Comfort/HANDOUT)

Many of the local blankets go to Edward Hospital in Naperville and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

For those who want to help out the organization, there’s information available at

As for the original blanket that started it all?

It’s in the Humes’ bedroom draped over a chair where they can see it every day.

“We have that blanket, and we will never let that go,” Lauren said. “It’s very special to us. If there were a fire in our house, after the kids, I would be grabbing that blanket.

“It’s a priceless treasure. You have something that has touched the skin of your child. It is something that drives us and inspires us to do more.”

Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.