Happy Hats Project ben­e­fits pe­di­atric pa­tients in re­gion

The Star Democrat - - LOCAL - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

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.

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