Since the end of February, staff members Janine Martinez, Michaele McConnell, Cathy Lopez, Melissa Zimmerman, Pali Wilson and Vanessa Franco have created more than 100 hats to give to cancer patients at Kaiser Permanente in Ontario and Downey.
“My sister has cancer,” Wilson says. “When I took her to the hospital for chemo, I noticed a lot of the patients were in need of hats.”
They have loomed more than 40 hats for children, with colorful characters and designs such as Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Hello Kitty, cupcakes, a snowman and a hippopotamus. Adult hats, of which more than 40 have been given, also come in different colors, styles and sizes.
“The hats are not given simply because of hair loss; they are given to keep the patients warm,” McConnell says. “The chemo that is injected into the body is very cold, therefore making the patients cold. The hats help to keep them warm because they are usually cold for a little while after receiving their treatments.”
Several of the women did not know how to loom, which is a different technique than knitting or crocheting. Lopez first learned to loom from her daughter and then taught Martinez. Together, they taught the rest of the women the basics of looming and also referenced Internet tutorials on creating embellishments and different looming techniques. On average, beginners took about two hours to complete their first hat — 10 minutes to cast onto the loom, one hour to loom the body of the hat, 10 minutes to close the hat and 40 minutes to add the embellishments.
“It is very easy to learn how to create hats,” Wilson says. “We hope to make bigger deliveries to assure that when we go to visit patients, everyone will get one. The best part is being able to see the smiles on the patients’ faces. It’s a very touching experience.”
The women volunteer their time and money for supplies, and loom during lunch or at home.
“I’ve only been working here for about a month and this has been a really great bonding experience,” Zimmerman says.
The hat makers have made this an ongoing project. Some have made it a personal cause, dedicating themselves to looming hats during Lent.
Their blog documents the project and how to make the hats. Future blog posts will detail their hospital visits and include photos of the hats.
Volunteers are welcome to learn to help create hats for cancer patients. Donations of yarn and hats are also appreciated. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.