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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 22, 2008

La Crescent, Minn., girl makes blankets for UI flood victims

As Lauren Graf followed news of the horrific flooding this summer on the University of Iowa campus, where her older brother is a doctorate student in chemistry, she knew she had to do something. So as part of a 4-H project, the 13-year-old La Crescent, Minn., resident began making blankets for flood victims.

By the time she finished, she had hand crafted 13 polar fleece blankets using nearly every color of the rainbow, including a special blanket emblazoned with Hawkeye black and gold.

On Thursday, Aug. 21, Lauren and her family came to Iowa City to present the blankets -- each wrapped with a ribbon -- in person to UI special advisor and former Interim Provost Lola Lopes, Graduate College Dean John Keller and UI Student Government President Maison Bleam.

Accompanying Lauren were her parents Larry and Elaine Graf and Lauren's 17-year-old brother, Christopher, a junior at Aquinas High School. Brothers Tyler, a Ph.D. student in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry, and Justin, a senior at Winona State University, were unable to attend the event.

Lopes, who helped with flood recovery operations this summer and worked to ensure that all classes would be offered this fall despite the damage, thanked Lauren and her family for the generous gift.

"I've been so impressed with the outpouring of support from people around the world as we've worked to undo the flood's damage," Lopes said. "But I must say, the fact that you spent so much of your summer doing something good for people hurt by a flood hundreds of miles away from your home makes this an especially precious gift. It's clear a great deal of love and attention went into making these blankets, and on behalf of the University of Iowa, I want to thank you."

Bleam also thanked the Grafs and said he'd work to find a home for each of the blankets.

"It was remarkable to see the sandbagging efforts and the cleanup process of the many volunteers who helped in the effort," Bleam said Thursday. "It is also been remarkable to see the outpouring of generosity by those not affected by the flood. Thank you on behalf of the Student Government and the student body for the time and effort you put into making these blankets to aid us during our recovery process."

Lauren began making the blankets as part of a project with 4-H, which awarded her an honorable mention in a recent competition. She said it took her about an hour to make each of the "no sew" blankets, cutting and tying the fabric all along the border. She worked on the family's dining room table throughout the summer, occasionally enlisting the help of brothers Justin and Christopher as well as her parents.

"I probably got a couple of blisters," she joked.

Lauren's brother Tyler, who is starting his second year as a doctoral student at the UI this fall, is also a graduate assistant for UI Assistant Professor of Chemistry Ned Bowden. Bowden said Tyler has been a good student, graduate teaching assistant and researcher. Tyler has been working in the laboratory to optimize a reaction with gold catalysts that will, in time, help researchers understand how to "site-isolate" the catalysts so they can be recycled.

"Since gold isn't cheap, recycling it will be a big advance," Bowden said.

During the flooding this summer the Iowa River flooded 20 buildings on the UI campus and caused an estimated $230 million in damage. At its peak, the river crested at 31.5 feet (3 feet higher than it did during the 1993 floods) and flowed through Iowa City at 41,100 cubic feet per second (more than 13,000 cfs faster than in 1993).


Lauren Graf holds the "Hawkeye Blanket," one of 13 blankets she hand-made for University of Iowa flood victims this summer:

Lauren Graf holds the "Hawkeye Blanket," one of 13 blankets she hand-made for University of Iowa flood victims this summer (closeup):

[Left to right] John Keller, dean of the University of Iowa Graduate College; Lola Lopes, former interim provost and currently special advisor; Lauren Graf; and Maison Bleam, president of the UI Student Government hold some examples of Lauren's handiwork:

[Left to right] Larry, Christopher, Lauren and Elaine Graf hold some of the blankets donated to the University of Iowa:

Elaine and Lauren Graf look over some of the 13 blankets Lauren and her family made for flood victims:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,