Feb. 8, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Two practices per day.
That's usually enough for a full day in the life of a college swimming student-athlete, but South Carolina senior Bryce Kananowicz always seems to find more hours in the day to give to others in a unique way. Kananowicz crochets blankets by hand and offers them as gifts to Hospice patients.
"I've made around 16 different blankets for hospice patients," Kananowicz said. "Before class, after class, after practice, before bed, or if I have any down time from studying or swimming, I usually pull it out, and I work on blankets. I'm just trying to do something nice for people who are going through a hard time.
"Just being a kid from Coeur d'Alene (Idaho), this community embraced me when I was recruited and brought over here, so I just want to give back and help in any way that's possible."
He has taken a personal skill and transformed it into a way to lift spirits and make others feel comforted during a difficult time.
Kananowicz has worked with Blue Ridge Hospice and Crescent Hospice in Columbia, and has put in more than 350 hours of blanket-making for patients. He learned the craft of making the blankets, also known as lapghans, in high school while staying with his grandmother, Nelly, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
"I've always been a nervous-energy kid, and my hand twitches a little bit when I get excited," Kananowicz explained. "I thought it would be a cool way to help with my dexterity and hand-eye coordination. She started to teach me about that, and it's been a fun hobby ever since.
"It's a calming thing you can do while you're sitting down and watching TV, or right before bed when you're relaxing. It takes your mind off of everything."
"Bryce Kananowicz epitomizes the type of selfless service that we try to instill in our student-athletes at the University of South Carolina," said Megan Stoltzfus, South Carolina's Director of Life Skills. "His passion for helping others, and making an impact in this community, is to be commended. He has taken a personal skill and transformed it into a way to lift spirits and make others feel comforted during a difficult time. He is committed to making this world a better place, one blanket at a time."
With his grandmother at his side, it didn't take Kananowicz long to improve his skills. His inspiration to get involved and help also came from family.
"Growing up, my grandpa (Ronald) was one of my best friends and someone I looked up to," Kananowicz said. "He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a few years back, so I knew some of the struggles he was going through. I was recently looking up some volunteer opportunities I could do here, and I saw there was an opening with hospice patients. I went over there during Thanksgiving break and visited some patients whose families couldn't be there."
He was told how much patients had appreciated small gifts such as blankets, and he knew this was right up his alley.
"Sometimes I go and sit with the patients and deliver the blankets to them," Kananowicz said. "Over Christmas, I wrote some hand-written notes and [hospice] delivered them as Christmas gifts."
While he doesn't seek anything in return, Kananowicz said his efforts are rewarding.
"I had someone whose spouse had passed away over the holidays, and I had given them one at Christmas time," Kananowicz said. "Their family wasn't able to come down, so they said that I had made their holidays. That was pretty special to me."
Kananowicz said he does get some requests, and he tries to make some that are garnet and black for those who are Gamecock fans. He's made a few blankets for others, including one for Stoltzfus' son, Jackson (pictured, right). It takes between 18 and 20 hours to create one of the approximately four-by-five feet blankets.
"Some days I'll sit at home and do it for about 10 hours on a weekend," Kananowicz said. "Some days I'll do about five hours or two. It just depends on how busy I am."
Kananowicz's schedule won't be slowing down even after his last semester of swimming for the Gamecocks ends. He'll earn his undergraduate degree in experimental psychology, and he has been accepted into graduate school at South Carolina to earn a master's in social work. After that, he plans to get a Ph.D. in psychology.
"That's something I want to continue for the rest of my life," Kananowicz said. "I want to be able to help shape and improve communities, families, and individuals; not just in Columbia, but anywhere I'm located in my life."
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