Little Hats, Big Hearts

Hats for Healthy Hearts 

Every February, volunteers join the American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation to knit and crochet red hats for babies born this month in participating hospitals. According to the AHA, they aim to empower mothers and children to lead heart-healthy lives. We talked with some people involved in the annual project to learn more.

Allison Mitura
Heart Walk Events Coordinator, American Heart Association

SWM: How did you get involved with the American Heart Association?

Allison: I developed a serious heart condition and decided to change careers and engage in more personally impactful work.

SWM: In a few sentences, describe how the Little Hats, Big Hearts program works.

Allison: The American Heart Association recruits knitters/crocheters to donate red hats. The AHA also recruits hospitals or organizations to distribute hats to newborns during the month of February.
The campaign raises awareness of congenital heart defects, the No. 1 birth defect in the world.

SWM: How many hats are donated each year? How does the distribution work?

Allison: We are still collecting for this year, but our goal is 3,500. Last year, we collected 2,915 hats. Hospitals provide us with the average number of births in February, and we provide them with the hats and support information. Nurses manage the distribution of the hats post-birth.

SWM: Share with us a memorable story from your time involved with the program.

Allison: Many of the stories we receive are about the knitters, since we have direct contact with them. These knitters will spend countless hours knitting in memory of a loved one or lost child who was affected by heart defects or heart disease.

SWM: The AHA focuses on the “why.” What’s your why?

Allison: My why is my daughter. As a survivor of heart disease myself, my pregnancy was high-risk and was a strain on my heart. But I was blessed with a happy and healthy daughter (who suffered a brief heart condition herself at birth).
With research and awareness, I hope that heart disease and heart defects can impact less families every year.

Patricia Gridley
Volunteer

SWM: How did you get involved with Little Hats, Big Hearts?

Patricia: I got involved two years ago. I’m a knitter and knitted two baby hats for a friend of my daughter’s in Connecticut. She was familiar with the program and sent information to me. I contacted the AHA in Syracuse and learned that the program didn’t exist in the Syracuse area. So, Allison and I talked about what needed to be done to start it here. I started knitting hats and recruited other knitters, Allison did all the administrative work, and Little Hats, Big Hearts was born in Central New York!

SWM: Did you have a connection to the American Heart Association prior?

Patricia: I certainly knew about the AHA and had used their resources to educate myself about heart disease, but otherwise, had no affiliation.

SWM: What is your role as a volunteer in this program?

Patricia: At this point, my role is to knit hats, pick up and deliver hats from other knitters in my area and support Allison and the program in any way she might need. I once taught Brandon Roth from Channel 3 to knit during a live broadcast of the Today in Central New York show.

SWM: What’s your favorite memory of being part of Little Hats, Big Hearts?

Patricia: My favorite memory is seeing the piles and piles of hats in the AHA office.

SWM: The AHA focuses on the “why.” What’s your why?

Patricia: My “why” is: because I can help spread the word!

Deirdre Aureden
Volunteer

SWM: How did you get involved with Little Hats, Big Hearts?

Deirdre: Allison Mitura reached out to the Schweinfurth Art Center and asked if we would like to be involved. Exhibits and classes at the Schweinfurth often involve quilting, knitting and other types of fiber art, and we have an active group of knitters and crocheters who meet here on Tuesdays.

SWM: Did you have a connection to the American Heart Association prior?

Deirdre: Our connection is with Allison! She used to work at the Schweinfurth before she began working at the American Heart Association.

SWM: What is your role as a volunteer in this program?

Deirdre: Allison contacted me, and I reached out to our knitting and crochet group who meet here weekly. They were very excited to be involved. I also reached out to a larger group of crocheters and knitters who helped create a 32-foot wide crocheted mural of Harriet Tubman in the spring of 2017 that was installed on the front of the Schweinfurth.

SWM: What’s your favorite memory of being part of Little Hats, Big Hearts?

Deirdre: We held a special “knitting and crocheting night” for Little Hats, Big Hearts on Dec. 7 at the Schweinfurth. The volunteers had such a fun time being together and imagining all the little babies wearing their hats.

SWM: The AHA focuses on the “why.”

What’s your why? Deirdre: Our mission is to create a vibrant community through the arts, and providing a fun forum for volunteers to use their artistic skills to create needed hats seemed like a perfect fit. SWM

For more information, visit heart.org.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

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