Happy Hats Project benefits pediatric patients in region
STEVENSVILLE — In Stevensville, one woman is making children a little happier with her whimsical hats.
Kay Alston, a retiree from the Maryland Judiciary, said she was looking for a project to keep her occupied and started researching different groups to become involved with. Since June, Alston with the help of a few friends, has distributed 50 wigs and 35 superhero beanies and baby hats to pediatric centers in the mid-Atlantic region.
Initially, Alston came across a post online needing chapter leaders for the Magic Yarn Project, a nationwide group that supplies wigs to pediatric cancer patients.
After much consideration and several discussions with friends and the Magic Yarn Project Chapter Leader for South Florida (the current chapter to which Maryland belongs), Alston said, “I opted to branch out on my own locally rather than mail our wigs to the MYP wigs for national/international distribution.”
Thus, Happy Hats Maryland was born. The ultimate goal of Happy Hats Maryland is to make whimsical yarn wigs and hats for pediatric patients in the mid-Atlantic region, with the emphasis on Maryland centers, she said.
For Alston, the connection is personal, as cancer is part of her family history. Since her grandmother died in 1974 from breast cancer, Alston has been contributing in some way to the cause, mostly with knitted chemo hats and tidbits, and also supporting the Susan G. Komen and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.
In July, Alston said she was looking for hat patterns and came across the patterns she had written for dolls with crocheted clothes.
“I had completely forgotten that I used to make dolls from scratch, completely out of yarn,” she said. “I started doing that when I was 11 or so, up until 20 years ago, when life got in the way.
“Finding that pattern solidified my purpose. That’s when I knew that Happy Hats Maryland was the way that I should spend my retirement — making ‘smiles’ for kids fighting pediatric illnesses.”
Many of the designs are themed around Disney characters, with Alston using patterns from the Magic Yarn Project website and coming up with her own styles.
“I love them all,” Alston said, “but Moana and Rapunzel are especially fun to make. The little girls really love the princesses, especially Elsa, Ariel, Moana and Rapunzel, and the boys love Jack Sparrow.”
Alston is working with four centers: Kennedy Kreiger Institute and University of Maryland Children’s Hospital in Baltimore; Rutgers Cancer Institute, New Brunswick, N.J.; and Nemours/Alfred I DuPont for Children in Wilmington, Del.
Rutgers and Kennedy Kreiger want as many wigs as she can make, Alston said, so she alternates mailing wigs to these centers after every wig workshop.
She also sends out holiday-themed hats to University of Maryland Children’s Hospital a couple of weeks prior to the holiday. Her goal is to make wigs upon request for anyone Isabel is rocking her Elsa wig with her friend and staff member at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Eddie. Her mom said it’s the first hat she has liked.
who contacts her, Alston said.
Alston has held wig workshops for crafters who would like to lend a hand, and she is trying to spread the word about Happy Hats Mar yland through social media (www.facebook.com/Happy-Hats-Mar y land-1604890652971981) artisan festivals and word of mouth. She credits her friends and fellow crafters, who have been especially helpful spreading the word about the project and making beanies and accessories, as well as organizing wig workshops in local churches and community centers.
A workshop is planned for the residents at Symphony Village in Centreville with three others to be held at the Queen Anne’s County Senior Centers:
• Grasonville Senior Center, Nov. 27, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
• Sudlersville Senior Center, Nov. 29, from 9 a.m. to noon
• Kent Island Senior Center, Nov. 30, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Alston, who recently retired, was a career educator and systems analyst. She has been doing some kind of needlework — needlepoint, knitting, crochet — since she was a little girl.
“I would love to work with any crafters that would like to support this cause,” Alston said.
Funding the start-up costs herself, Alston recently received a few cash donations and yarn; however, the yarn is a specific kind designed to be soft against the skin, she said.
Cash or gift cards to Michaels, Joann’s, A.C. Moore and dollar stores are very helpful, she said.
Soft brands of yarn, Caron Simply Soft or Red Heart Soft in primary colors brown, red, white and yellow, are used by Alston for the beanies — the base of the wigs — and the “hair,” so as not to irritate sensitive scalps.
Anyone interested in learning more is encouraged to contact Alston on the Happy Hats Maryland Facebook page or by attending a wig workshop. When it comes to Black Friday shopping, it can be a dog-eat-dog world out there. As your Black Friday Tool Kit, we help you get your shopping done and still experience the joy of the holiday season.
Centenary United Methodist Church in Shady Side recently hosted a wig workshop.