When Brendan McCaffrey was born prematurely and in the intensive care unit for an extended stay while his lungs developed, he received a soft, handmade blanket to keep him warm and feeling secure.
Now, the Bishop Hendricken 5”11, 170 senior left handed pitcher/outfielder is making homemade blankets for others in need.
A high honors and straight A student, McCaffey has made roughly 20 blankets for Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides new handmade blankets to children in need. The organization has chapters in 50 states, including Rhode Island and has distributed more than 8 million blankets since it was established in 1995.
“It’s a great organization,” said McCaffrey. “I love being a part of it.”
McCaffrey started making blankets for Project Linus four years ago when he entered Hendricken as a freshman..
A fast runner who was eager to get in shape for his first high school baseball season that spring, McCaffey joined the indoor track team during the winter sports season. His friends convinced him to try the high jump and his first attempt proved to be his last. He broke his leg on the landing and was sidelined for several months in a wheelchair.
“It was a very difficult three months,” said McCaffrey.
He faced adversity and suffered a setback, but the competitive scholar-athlete preserved and in the process focused on helping others.
Unable to go anywhere or do much of anything while was wheelchair bound, his mom suggested he consider participating in Project Linus, a program she said had helped him when he was an infant.
“I did my own research and saw that it was a great opportunity for me to help people,” said McCaffrey.
He would also be able to fulfill his 25 hours of community service, required for each student at Hendricken.
So McCaffrey bought the materials, measured, cut and soon he was making blankets. He has never stopped.
“It made me feel great. I couldn’t do anything to help myself and I figured why just waste this time when I could be helping somebody else,” said McCaffrey. “I don’t know who I am helping, but I am helping somebody and that’s all that matters.”
McCaffrey has long since exceeded his required community service hours, but he continues to make soft, cozy blankets for others. Over the last four years, he has made roughly 20 blankets that have been distributed to children in hospitals and shelters throughout Rhode Island.
“Sometimes I am jealous. I am giving them away and they are so comfortable,” he joked. “But they are for a good cause.”
“A lot of kids complete their required 25 service hours , but in the face of adversity with the leg injury, Brendan took the bull by the horns, found something he was passionate about and that made a huge impact on his life and others and is still committed to it,” said Chris Sheehan, Hendricken’s Dean of Students and Assistant Baseball Coach.
McCaffrey is wrapping up his senior year – this first full year of baseball due to his freshman year injury and two straight seasons that were disrupted by COVID-19,
He has played nearly a half dozen positions for the Hawks this season. An outfielder and left handed pitcher, he has helped Hendricken to secure first place in Division 1A going into the playoffs.
McCaffrey is the first one out of the bullpen, has also been called upon as a defensive specialist, a pinch runner and recently even filled in at first base.
“I’ll play wherever they need me,” said McCaffrey.
”Brendan has approached baseball the same way he approached his community service. Whatever he can do to help others in this case, the team,’ said Sheehan. “Because of a kid like Brendan, if a (playoff series) goes three games, we have an advantage because of our depth on the mound.
He’s ready to do whatever he can to help the team. I’ve seen a lot of progression as an athlete, but even more importantly as a young man. What separates Brendan from the others is his desire to to care for others. He is an outstanding young man.”
McCaffrey’s motivated by his older cousin Mike, a former phenomenal pitcher at Hendricken. A two-time All-Stater and second team All-American, Mike is just one of three pitchers in Hendricken history to go unbeaten during his entire high school career, (Sheehan and Jason Henderson are the others).
“When I am on the mound I think about him and in the classroom, too. I just want to compete and do the best I can like he did,” said McCaffrey.
McCaffrey will continue his athletic and academic career at St. Joseph’s of Maine in the fall. McCaffrey will also continue to make blankets.
“Right now I have to focus on baseball and my grades but once school and the season wrap up I’ll be making some new blankets again,” said McCaffrey, who believes the blanket he received from Project Linus as an infant still is tucked away in his house. “When I think about making the blankets and helping others it puts a smile on my face. It’s not just about fulfilling the community service hours, I’ve gone well above the required amount for Hendricken. Project Linus is an organization I love that supports others. I love helping people and if this is the way I can help people I’m going to continue to do it.”
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