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Kindness in School: 3rd Graders Knit Caps to Save Infants

It is my pleasure to share with you a school based service project that is now in the 11th year as the 2013-2014 school year starts.  Knit One, Save One is a project at Westwood-Bales Elementary.  Barbara Gruener, the school counselor, shares with us this project:  how it started, how it grew, and the many great people that are part of a lasting and meaningful way to teach kids to think of others.  (one of the aspects I LOVE, the experienced knitting students come back and mentor novice student knitters–PERFECT!)  Don’t miss the video that she mentions.  (Link to video in case you miss it.)

Knitting Kindness

by Barbara Gruener

Although it’s been a decade, I remember it as if it were yesterday Our soon-to-be college freshmen were in the third grade when a  mom stopped by my counseling office to pitch an idea. Meet Elizabeth. She was
wondering what I thought about starting a Knitting Club. She even offered to help get the ball rolling.

We did some research and found a project called Warm Up, America that seemed doable for eight and nine year olds. Basically, we’d be knitting 7″X9”  patches that we’d bind together to end up with a patchwork afghan. We sent out a call for knitters and volunteers, and, that spring, each of our thirty club
members learned to knit and made a patch for our first character quilt in patriotic colors.

Meet Harold. As king of the May Day Dance at his retirement home, he was tickled to be the recipient of that labor of love.  

The next year we doubled our membership, then doubled it again the  following year. About that same time, Save  the Children was calling for knitters around the world to help reduce the
infant mortality rate.  So, we cinched our patches at the top and stitched them  down the side to create caps to help out with Save the Children’s “Caps To The Capital” Campaign. Two years later, we partnered with them again and, as a reflection piece, we made aKnit One, Save One video.

Knit One, Save One Unites a Diverse Group

Utilizing an old-fashioned craft instead of new-fangled technology, this intergenerational service-learning opportunity has generated a synergy of caring and compassion that has rippled out to connect our students and our community to others across the world.

Meet Elizabeth, just a third grader when she was invited to the White House, where she left one of her baby hats with the First Lady’s staff.  When asked in an interview how she felt about her handiwork making it into the hands of the First Lady, she replied, “It was okay, I guess, but I really made that cap for a baby.” 

Meet Herman. After reading about us in the paper, he gathered up the supplies that his wife, Anna, left behind when she passed away, and he donated them for us to use. 

Meet Laura. She’s a community volunteer who brings her friends to  knit-club meetings every Thursday morning and often during recess to mentor our novice knitters.

Meet Frank.  He saw our story online from his home in Illinois. Twice a year he sends us the yarn that’s donated to his church’s garage sale.

Meet Christina.  She helps expectant mothers at the Center for Pregnancy where we’ve sent patchwork baby blankets.

Meet Grace. Home-bound on oxygen, she saw our story on television and called to ask if we could make a home visit to pick up her donations.

Meet the local Knitting Guild members who have rallied to help us.  One of them, a grandpa from the community, learned to knit to rehab old war  wounds.

And there’s DeDe, a writer across town who heard about us and shared our story in Highlights Magazine.  

Meet Rita. She’s starting a knit-for-service club in California because she read about our Gallant Kids in Highlights.

Meet Mary Margaret, a teacher who started a knit club in Canada after hearing about our success. And Lynn up in Ohio and Sue in Pennsylvania.

Meet the several thousand babies whose lives we’ve worked to save in the past decade. 

A project with a purpose that has circular momentum; when good goes, it always comes back around. As they knit, students use both sides of their brain,s actually some research that suggests that knitting has therapeutic benefits.

For our students, the weekly time together allows time to visit and socialize as they sharpen their social skills and seize a vital relationship-building opportunity. They persevere through knitting a product
from start to finish, a valuable life skill. 

Then, they give their handiwork away and learn to share their time and their talents for a greater good, to help people whom they may never meet, with needs greater than theirs will ever be. Their empathy grows with every stitch as they realize that their gift is a life-saving measure to an underweight baby
in a third-world country. And the best part may very well be when they come back in fourth and fifth grade as mentors to our novice knitters. 

Caring, simply defined, is thinking with our hearts.  Our knitters are leading by example and doing just that, knitting kindness, and kindness always finds a way to boomerang back.

More information is just a click away; visit our knitting page here.

More about the Author:  Barbara Gruener, B.S., M.S., M.S. serves as a school counselor and character coach at the PreK-3rd grade side of Westwood-Bales, a 2009 National School of Character in Friendswood, Texas.  She is about to start her 30th year in education.  When she’s not blogging over at The Corner on Character, Barbara enjoys motivational speaking, reading, journaling, knitting, baking, exercising, and spending time with her husband and three children.