The Knit-For Service Club began in 2004 with twenty members and has grown to eighty-plus boys and girls who knit to help others. The first year, we made one patchwork blanket to donate to Harold, the King of the Valentine’s Day Dance, at his retirement home. Since then, we have collectively knit over two dozen blankets and two thousand baby hats for people in need.
In our third year, Save the Children® in Connecticut asked us to join its Caps to the Capital campaign. That visit resulted in our club’s effort to rally the community to help us send 329 handmade caps to developing countries to help reduce the infant mortality rate. Consequently, we were invited that January to deliver a basket of those caps to the White House. Elizabeth, our young Westwood Ambassador, left one of her hats with the First Lady’s chief of staff. When asked how it felt to leave her handiwork with the First Lady, Elizabeth remarked, “It was okay, I suppose. But I really made that hat for a baby.” A project with a purpose. Be still my beating heart.
The following year and one hundred knitters strong, our club made preemie-sized hats to donate locally and four afghans, two of which were adult-sized blankets in rival Texas college colors that were auctioned off at our school’s spring carnival. The other two were baby-sized throws to give to The Center for Pregnancy locally for an expectant mom. That August, Highlights magazine shared the story nationally in the “Gallant Kids” column.
Two years later, when Save the Children® once again called for caps in their Knit One, Save One initiative, the Westwood knitters donated an amazing 652 caps, many made by the children themselves, others made by community stakeholders whom we rallied, including grandmothers, shut-ins, and random friends who read about us in the newspaper or saw us on television or the Internet. We were represented one more time at the Capitol when Hannah, that year’s Westwood Ambassador, headed to DC with the club’s new leader after I turned the reins over and joined the ranks of volunteers.
A few of our stakeholders include Herman, who donated his wife’s supply of yarn after her passing so that our children could put it to good use, and the local knitting guild, which sends volunteers to help just because they want to serve. And Frank, who sends us the yarn he collects from his bi-annual church garage sale in Illinois, and Grace, who suffers from emphysema but knits for us from her oxygen tent. Then there’s eight-year-old Makenna, who traveled to the nation’s capital to meet with President Obama’s staff and to Capitol Hill to lobby for a cause so that her voice could be heard as she exercised her civic rights. And the babies whose lives we’ve saved and their moms, dads, and siblings who are forever grateful. Students research the places where we could send our hats or blankets, learn to knit, which includes some poetry and patterns, math and fine motor skills, and reflect on how they’ve made a difference with journal entries or letters. When we partner with Save the Children®, there is a letter-writing component. Each hat is sent with a letter to the president asking for his help to reduce infant mortality. We also attach a note to the families on each cap that we make. During the years when Save the Children® isn’t accepting hats, we send them overseas with missionaries or to local hospitals.
When a picture comes back from the field of one of our hats warming the head of a baby in Ethiopia, Malawi, or Bangladesh, we’re sure that this intergenerational service-learning opportunity, which started simply within our school walls, has generated a synergy that has touched our community and rippled out to positively impact our world. Superheroes have the power to save lives.
AUTHOR: Barbara Gruener, Corner on Character Barbara currently serves as a school counselor and character coach in Friendswood, TX. In her 32 years of public education, she has been blessed to work with students of all ages and stages of development, from preK through 12th grade. Barbara is also an author and a professional development specialist who enjoys influencing and inspiring through her high-energy, engaging workshops and keynotes. When she’s not working, you can find her reading, writing, knitting, baking, taking long walks or relaxing poolside with her husband and three children.
What’s Under Your Cape? Superheroes of the Character Kind, is a wonderful character education resource book for elementary educators. It is filled with ideas, activities and suggested children’s literature which teachers can use as they help to instill good character into the hearts of their boys and girls. Just think what our future world would be if all of today’s children would grow up to become positive character superheroes—what a beautiful world that would be! ~ Pam Morgan, Retired Elementary Principal You can purchase Barbara’s book HERE (affiliate link).