Volunteers with the newly created Heartful Hats organization have completed hats for the summer and winter and are ready to hand them out. Pictured are, from left, program originator Marilyn McCaulley, hat-makers Tina Livingston, 15-year-old Remi Helm, Bettie Pierce, Juanita Davis, M.B. Warner, who made the glass mosaic, hat-maker Joanne Cannon and Infusion/Chemotheraphy Center Director Jan Fritz.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Volunteers with the newly created Heartful Hats organization have completed hats for the summer and winter and are ready to hand them out. Pictured are, from left, program originator Marilyn McCaulley, hat-makers Tina Livingston, 15-year-old Remi Helm, Bettie Pierce, Juanita Davis, M.B. Warner, who made the glass mosaic, hat-maker Joanne Cannon and Infusion/Chemotheraphy Center Director Jan Fritz.

Heartful Hats gives something fun to chemotherapy patients

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For more information about Heartful Hats, a volunteer program that provides knit caps, baseball hats, bandanas and other head coverings for patients receiving chemotherapy treatments at Yampa Valley Medical Center, go by the Infusion/Chemotherapy Center in the YVMC medical office building, or call program organizer Marilyn McCaulley at 846-3262.

— When Marilyn McCaulley picked up crocheting for the first time this winter, she couldn't have imagined the volunteer craft effort her hobby would become.

"I made a hat and thought that would be a fun thing if we could get together and have everybody make a hat, and I was originally thinking we could do it at Christmastime," she said. That idea grew into Heartful Hats, a service project for chemotherapy patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center that relies on volunteers to make hats for those who have lost their hair during cancer treatments. Since February, the group has made about 150 head coverings.

Rallying volunteers for the program came easily, McCaulley said. Seventeen people showed up for a crocheting session this winter at Steamboat Smokehouse. As it has grown, the group has come to include cancer survivors, family and friends of cancer patients and other community members. It's a widely varied group in age and occupation - including teenagers, school bus drivers and local artists - made up of people who want to give something back, McCaulley said.

After an initial round of hat making, residents at Doak Walker Care Center contacted McCaulley to express their interest in contributing to the project.

When McCaulley presented the idea to the cancer services staff at YVMC, the doctors and nurses gladly accepted the chance to offer something fun to their patients.

"They thought there would be a great need for it and it would be a really fun way for people in the Yampa Valley to support other people in the Yampa Valley who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments," McCaulley said.

Knit caps can get a little warm during a Yampa Valley summer, so McCaulley - along with Heartful Hats volunteer and Steamboat Springs mixed-media artist M.B. Warner - started throwing out ideas for warmer-weather headwear. Warner suggested doing a tie-dye and fabric art project, and she led a two-night workshop at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus for volunteers to learn how to dye baseball caps, bucket hats and bandanas. She also crafted a mosaic to hang on a wall at YVMC's Infusion/Chemotherapy Center.

"It has little hooks at the bottom, so we can display the hats and so people that are in the infusion room getting chemotherapy can look at a bunch of different hats," McCaulley said. "They can look at them, they can try them on : the display is changing all the time."

The rack features hats and other head coverings for men and women, said Jan Fritz, director of cancer services at YVMC. "Body image is a big thing" while undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Fritz said, and the Heartful Hats project offers a wide spectrum of styles.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Heartful Hats program can visit YVMC's Infusion/Chemotherapy Center for more information and to look at knitting patterns.

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