"HATS" Group Stitches for a Cause

The Women from HATSOn the third Wednesday of each month, a small group of retirees gather in the meeting room of the Cross Plains Public Library to sew and knit hats for a good cause.


It all started in 2005, when Karen Pape took a trip to visit her daughter, Deena, an oncology nurse in Seattle. The head of the clinic there had bought some fabric, and Deena used it to knit hats for the patients she treated.


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While in Seattle, Karen was reminded of a few co-workers suffering from cancer, and thought her daughter's idea was a great one, so she got to work. Soliciting fabric from acquaintances, neighbors and coworkers, Pape and some old friends from work began knitting hats to keep cancer patients warm.


Now, 11 years and more than 7,500 hats later, the HATS group or "Hats Are For Support" is still at it. Each month they give away more than 100 hats to the UW Carbone Cancer CenterAmerican Family Children's Hospital, American Cancer Society, and other hospitals throughout the region.


Almost all of the fabric comes from donations, from leftover blanket remnants to used fleece turtlenecks. "Every time I think we're going to run out, someone comes along and drops off a box for us," says Pape.


All the HATS members are good friends, so their time together is a chance to catch up - but it's also a time to work.


"This group is great," says Karen, "because they can talk, and stitch at the same time!"


Long time HATS member Bev Hoernke sees their work as a way to be mindful of her own health.


"With each hat I sew," says Bev, "I give thanks that it's not me who has to wear one."


Barb Stark, another member of the group, keeps an eye on the work being done to treat cancer at the UW Carbone Cancer Center.


"Some day, we will find a way to stop cancer in all of its forms," she says. "Until then, we can support cancer research and give moral support to families of those who suffer."


With each stitch and cut of fabric, the members of HATS share their hope, love and care for those suffering from cancer. While the hats they sew warm the heads of needy cancer patients in the Madison area, this particular group of women know they're warming hearts, too.


"If we brighten one person's day with a new hat," says Bev Hoernke, "then we've achieved our goal."