Warm heads and hearts
Freedom grad passes out knit caps in anti-bullying campaign
The blue knit hats that all Donegan Elementary students tugged onto their heads and pulled over their ears Monday had a special meaning.
“When you wear these blue hats, you’re taking a stand against bullying,” Louis Boria told the 500 students, who ranged from preschool to fifth grade.
A New York City-based urban knitwear designer, Boria visited Donegan and Broughal Middle School to hand out the blue hats, some with pink sparkles and others with pom-poms at the top, as part of a #HatNotHate national anti-bullying campaign. Boria often visits schools to promote the message of diversity and breaking stereotypes, such as the one that knitting is for older women.
A 1994 Freedom High graduate, Boria started knitting after a vivid dream years ago of himself performing the craft. He taught himself to knit using YouTube videos and now owns the company Brooklyn Boy Knits. A few years ago, he went viral after Broadway performer Frenchie Davis took a photo of him knitting on a subway train. So Boria decided he wanted to give back to schools and started working
with the #HatNotHate campaign.
Boria, who attended Broughal as a middle schooler, teamed up with Joanne Turcotte, owner of the Knitter’s Edge yarn shop in Bethlehem, to distribute 1,400 hats made by his crew as well as volunteers to the two schools Monday.
Nationwide, the #HatNotHate campaign hopes to distribute 25,000 blue knit hats to schools. Blue was chosen because the color represents peace and solidarity.
“To come back to my hometown and offer students a positive message is so important,” Boria said.
Boria’s message was received by fourth grader Daniel Rivera, who wore a blue hat — his favorite color — over his ears.
“I think it’s wonderful to tell people not to bully,” said 10-year-old Daniel.
With October designated as National Bullying Prevention Month and Monday seen as World Day of Bullying Prevention, it was the perfect time for Boria’s message, Assistant Principal Daniel Garcia said. During October, students are encouraged to wear the hats as much as possible.
“This serves as a visual that we’re all united in this,” Garcia said. “It’s all our job to promote love and decrease hate.”
Third grader Alex TorresSmalley knew that he and his classmates were sending a message to stop bullying by wearing the blue hats.
But the hats also had another purpose, said 8-year-old Alex.
“It’s warm,” Alex said. “I’m definitely going to be using it for winter.”
Kindergartner Mekenly Young reacts to his new hat. Donegan Elementary School students received knitted #HatNotHate campaign hats Monday from volunteers from the Knitter's Edge yarn shop in Bethlehem.
Louis Boria, a former Donegan student and current fiber artist who is the founder and creator of Brooklyn Boy Knits in New York City, teamed up with the owner of the Knitter's Edge yarn shop, Joanne Turcotte, and volunteers to give away hats to the students.
Second grader Sophia Gonzales reacts with her classmates to their new hats from the #HatNotHate campaign Monday at Donegan Elementary School.