The gift of comfort: Scout donates more than 100 handmade blankets to hospital in memory of late brother


By Shelly Gattlieb

For Justin Lockner, determining his Eagle Scout project was simple. Making it happen was more challenging, but he had plenty of inspiration.

The Carmel High School junior and member of Troop 112 concluded his project Feb. 23 by donating more than 100 handmade blankets to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. Last time the Lockner family was at the facility was exactly four years earlier, the day his youngest brother, Evan, died at age 7 after battling a rare form of brain cancer.

CIC COVER 0319 Lockner Blankets 3
Justin Lockner with his youngest brother, Evan Lockner. (Photo courtesy of the Lockner family)

Justin was in third grade at the time and remembered how donated blankets added color and hope to his brother’s room during frequent stays in the hospital.

“It was something that really stood out to me, and I felt like I could make that happen,” Lockner said. “It kind of felt like I was doing Evan’s Eagle Scout project as well.”

Eagle is the highest rank in Scouts and is achieved by less than 10 percent of program participants. Part of the process involves completion of a project managed by the Scout, which for Justin included two rounds of planning, cost estimates, production, scheduling, fundraising, paperwork and more. Justin more than doubled his initial goal of donating 50 blankets and ended up giving leftover funds raised for the project to the hospital, too.

Justin’s mother, Kelly Lockner, said she is grateful for community support for the project.

“There are a lot of people who knew Evan’s story, and there are a lot of people who supported us for many years and still do,” Kelly said. “Evan still lives through his brothers every single day.”

Evan was diagnosed with cancer at 22 months old when doctors discovered fluid on his brain and a tumor the size of a plum near his brainstem. He underwent multiple surgeries and treatments before being declared in full remission. After four years with no evidence of disease, the cancer returned.

Justin said he remembers Evan as a fun kid who loved “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” Scouting, lacrosse, tae kwon do and “Power Rangers.”

“We didn’t care that he had cancer – we just knew he was our brother,” Justin said.

Randy Lockner, Justin’s father, said he is proud of Justin completing his Eagle Scout project, a bittersweet experience for the entire family.

“Losing Evan was difficult, the most difficult thing any of us have had to deal with,” Randy said. “But (we got an) extra four years that we got with him that we didn’t think we were going to get, based upon the diagnosis early on and knowing the realities of that disease. It’s taken me a couple years, but I focus more on those good four years than those that we’ve lost.”

At the donation ceremony, Dot Hitchens, manager of support and volunteer services for PMCH, presented Justin with a certificate and thanked him for the blankets.

“We were caring for you and your family, and (now) you are caring for other families,” Hitchens told Justin. “I think that says so much about you as a person and the gifts that you’ve given to the hospital.”

Justin said he is “extremely happy” with the results of his Eagle Scout project.

“Overall, I achieved what I wanted to achieve,” he said.

CIC COVER 0319 Lockner Blankets 4
The four Lockner brothers, clockwise from left, Logan, Justin, Nathan and Evan, have all been involved in Scouting. (Photo courtesy of the Lockner family)

‘A great program for them’

Scouting has been important to the Lockner family for a long time.

Brothers Justin, Nathan and Logan are all involved in the organization, as was their youngest sibling, Evan, before he died at age 7 of an inoperable brain tumor in 2020. Their father, Randy, has also been a participant, and credits the program with building leadership skills.

Evan became an honorary Eagle Scout, the highest rank, during a bridge ceremony held at the Lockner home.

Kelly Lockner, Randy’s wife and the boys’ mother, said being a Scout “spills into everything they do.”

“You can see the way all the boys have taken what they’ve learned in Scouts, and it’s threaded throughout school and other clubs,” she said. “It has really been a great program for them.”

As Justin prepares for college, his experience in Scouting has led him to explore an interest in student government or similar organizations.

“I think that Scouts has burned in my head that I have an obligation to help others,” he said. “I personally feel like if I’m not helping others, then what am I doing?”