Residents knit hats for premature babies at local hospital

Each week at Chartwell Royalcliffe in London, residents gather together to knit and crochet; however, this isn’t done purely for entertainment purposes. Rather, residents will be compiling their crafts—soft, wooly hats for premature babies—and sending them off to London Health Sciences Centre in their community.

“Last year, I got a request from LHSC, when they heard about our teddy bears for kids with cancer,” said Sharon Berman, the residence’s Lifestyle and Programs Manager. “I had the idea brewing when [we were asked] if we made preemie hats. They have had 13,000 donations from the community and still need more!”

About the program
The knitting group—unofficially called the “Craft Ladies”, though some men have participated as well—is a part of Chartwell Royalcliffe’s H.O.P.E. program, which encourages residents to give back to their community through purposeful engagement. Over snacks and drinks, the residents get to work creating some of the first items of clothing a baby will ever wear. The program makes participants feel helpful and accomplished, even if they don’t know how to knit or crochet. Residents can feel involved whether they actually make the hats or contribute in some other way.

“Some ladies simply count and sort hats – they don’t knit or crochet. I find many ways to make them feel a part of it,” said Berman. “Some ladies stuff teddy bears or some roll the yarn into balls, and some help me with coffee set up.”

Berman also teaches interested retirement residence participants how to knit the beanies. She tries to be as inclusive as possible and incorporate each person’s skills and abilities into their responsibilities. One of the main goals of the program is to keep residents active and happy, and it seems to be working out quite well.

Benefits of volunteer work
Volunteer work is known to be a healthy activity for seniors for a variety of reasons. It boosts quality of life, provides a sense of purpose and helps older adults remain active. The community also greatly benefits from the assistance. “The LHSC are grateful,” said Berman. “They send me appreciative emails and even have a representative coming to our party!”

Chartwell Royalcliffe’s party will consist of residents, friends, family, volunteers and representatives from the hospital. It will be a send-off ceremony to show everyone just how significant residents’ efforts have been over the past year. Berman noted that the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.

“[Residents are] feeling part of something bigger than they are,” she said. “They share with family how happy they are. It helps them get outside themselves and spread good will.”

If you are interested in learning more about Chartwell’s vocational H.O.P.E. (Helpings Others for Purposeful Engagement) program, click here.