Fleece & Thank You founder Nicholas Kristock poses July 11 in the nonprofit’s new warehouse in Farmington Hills, where they store all the blanket-making materials and host blanket-making events.

Fleece & Thank You founder Nicholas Kristock poses July 11 in the nonprofit’s new warehouse in Farmington Hills, where they store all the blanket-making materials and host blanket-making events.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

Fleece & Thank You joins Farmington Hills community

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published July 22, 2019


FARMINGTON HILLS — From building blankets in his parent’s basement to “busting out the seams” of the previous 3,000-square foot headquarters, Nicholas Kristock, former international soccer player turned social entrepreneur and founder of Fleece & Thank You, has seen an exceptional amount of growth in his nonprofit in the short three and a half years since its inception.

Moving and expanding its brick-and-mortar space each year since October 2015 when the nonprofit started, the company is now proud to call Farmington Hills home as it settles into its new 5,300-square foot headquarters located at 24715 Crestview Court.

Fleece & Thank You is a nonprofit that creates and donates fleece blankets, along with supportive video messages, to children — who the company calls warriors — who’ve been admitted to hospitals. While the nonprofit mainly focuses its efforts in Michigan, they’ve also served hospitals in Illinois, Ohio, Hawaii, Florida, California, New York, Virginia, Texas and Arizona. All together, they support 33 hospitals across the nation.

Kristock said the new location will afford the company a number of new advantages it didn’t have before.

“We now have more shelves and more room to store more blankets to serve more kids. We can also accommodate bigger volunteer groups. At our old place, we’d have these groups of 35, 40, 50 people and we didn’t really have enough room for them, but now with this new place the sky’s the limit,” he said. “Bigger groups means more help, more production, and more blankets to be made as an output.”

Kristock explained the bigger headquarters will also allow the nonprofit to host events at its new warehouse, like its annual Make a Blanket Day, where it previously had to go off-site to do so.

The company began after Kristock left Australia in 2014 where he was playing soccer and volunteering at a few local hospitals down there. While volunteering, he developed a passion for working with kids, so he quit playing soccer, boarded the next flight back to America and started making calls to Michigan-based hospitals to see what he could do to help.

His twin sister, a pediatric oncology nurse at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor at the time, told Kristock while he was home looking for work he should make a few blankets for the children admitted there. A few phone calls later, he realized a majority of the hospitals in Michigan have a need for fleece blankets — to offset the dull, sterile whites that normally fill a hospital room.

“I called every hospital that serves children in the state and found no one ever has enough fleece blankets,” he said. “All the blankets were getting made in December and January, and most of those blankets were going to the same two hospitals, so I thought this is such an easy problem to solve. Let’s just figure out how many kids go into the hospital for treatment, and let’s make that many blankets.”

Kristock found out every year, in Michigan alone, around 30,000 children will spend at least one night in a hospital. From there, his goal became to serve all 30,000 of those children by providing them with not only a fleece blanket, but also a personalized video message from the volunteer(s) who made it, so the children and their families know they’re not alone in the fight to regain their health. Fleece & Thank You has been able to donate about 55,000 blankets to date.

Shay Rocco, a certified child life specialist at St. John’s Providence Hospital in Royal Oak, said the Fleece & Thank You blankets “add so much to my work and help me in ways they couldn’t even understand.”

“That blanket helps me build rapport with my patients. So I walk in — I’ve got these toys, I’ve got the blanket — I’m the fun person. I’m setting a precedent right in the beginning of their admission, and that linkage can help set the tone for how the family is going to feel appreciated and loved throughout the rest of their (child’s) admission,” she said. “As a fleece blanket, it’s a small gesture, but it means so much to these families.”

“It’s a resource that every single patient, regardless of socioeconomic status, disease, prognosis, whatever it may be, everyone benefits from,” she added.

Moving forward, Kristock hopes he can expand the nonprofit to a nationwide audience, though he feels he has a duty to take care of Michigan first.

“First things first, figure out how you can do it in one state consistently, and then use that playbook to replicate it over and over again,” he said.

To find out more about Fleece & Thank You’s story, mission and initiatives, visit fleeceandthankyou.org.