Newborns across Michigan are receiving red hats, stitched with love and infused with the compassion of dedicated volunteers pointing their knitting needles to a vital cause.
Five years ago, the American Heart Association (AHA) launched “Little Hats, Big Hearts,” a campaign in which thousands of handknit red hats are delivered to newborns in participating hospitals across the state during February to raise awareness about babies born with congenital heart defects and healthy living for all children.
Local high school students Cherwasha Hill and Celina Klimkiewicz learned about Little Hats, Big Hearts while researching nonprofit efforts geared towards newborns and preemies for a school project at the Van Buren Technology Center. Hill and Klimkiewicz plan to pursue early childhood education once they graduate from high school.
Between balancing their regular high school courses and the time at the tech center, Hill and Klimkiewicz also took the time to teach themselves how to knit for this project. They also used Facebook to ask people in their inner circle to help knit and donate hats so they could make a bigger impact.
Each year, at least 40,000 children in the United States are born with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). They vary widely and the exact causes are mostly unknown. CHDs are the most common cause of infant death resulting from birth defects. Today, thanks to medical research, most babies born with heart defects survive to adulthood. Some CHDs are diagnosed before or immediately following birth; others can go undetected for months or even years.
“We are reaching out to all families, for those who are born with healthy hearts & those who are born with a congenital heart defect.”
– Cindy Bouma, Communications Director, AHA Midwest Affiliate
“Families who have a child with a heart defect have a long road ahead of them, and we want to connect with them.”
For many new parents who may have a child with a congenital heart challenge, the endearing hats represent hope and are a palpable sign that they need not walk the path that lies before them alone.
“We really appreciate the donors who are taking the time to knit and crochet, so we can distribute the hats,” Bouma expressed. “It’s a great way to reach parents of newborns during a key learning opportunity.”
The AHA will be accepting hats for next year’s Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign from late fall 2019 to Feb. 1, 2020. They kindly request that the yarn be red, cotton or acrylic, medium to heavy weight and machine washable and dryable.
For knitting patterns and a link for more information on participating, please visit www.heart.org/en/get-involved/little-hats-big-hearts.