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Knitting warmth for kids in need

  • Petaluma Knitters, from the left, Suzanne Clark, crocheting a baby blanket, Kay Petesen, Pat Klinepier, Monique Braud, Ilse Zurth, Maggie Wright, and Shizue Veal, all of Petaluma, share a light moment as they work at knitting and crocheting at the Petaluma Senior Center on Tuesday morning November 19, 2013.

Armed with only their knitting needles and miles of colorful yarn, a group of Petaluma women are making a difference as far away as San Francisco.

Every Tuesday morning, 20 retired women gather together at the Petaluma Senior Center to share their communal love of knitting and crocheting. They call themselves the Petaluma Knitters and in their role as creative makers, they give back to the greater Bay Area community.

They dutifully stitch together colorful blankets, soft baby booties and fuzzy hats throughout the year, which are collected up and sent to the causes the women are passionate about supporting.

Anita Bene has been a member of the Petaluma Knitters for the past three years. In her opinion, "Petaluma Knitters is here to serve others. Most of us were so happy to find a group to share our handmade items and know they would be given away to someone in need to enjoy."

Recently, the care packages have been sent to the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at UCSF's Benioff Children's Hospital, where the group donates nearly 50 knitted items for sick babies each year. Every winter, these handmade gifts help to make the patients at the Pediatric Cardiac ICU a little more comfortable, despite their critical condition.

"Most of our patients have congenital heart defects which require surgical intervention," says Kevin Spolini, a Petaluma resident and the patient care manager of the Pediatric Critical Care Unit at the hospital. "Many of the infants are born here and will not leave the hospital until they have had surgery. For some, that may mean surgery right after birth, and for others that may mean waiting in the hospital for weeks or months."

Since Spolini began working in the Pediatric Cardiac ICU, he and his fellow nurses have gratefully accepted the yearly donations from the Petaluma Knitters.

"These are patients who are typically full of tubes and lines, which make them look vastly different than a typical, cute newborn," Spolini explains. "The knitted items add a small piece of infant normalcy to the situation."

Being able to dress the babies in booties and hats is a way to introduce a bit of the normal, every day life for these infants who have yet to experience the comforts of home as they're confined in the hospital for their first days, weeks and months. For the parents of the seriously ill children, as well, seeing their little ones in something other than hospital equipment offers hope that there is a normal life once the child recovers.

Pediatric Cardiac ICU nurse Asunta Pacheco-Kennedy insists that the power of the knitted clothing does not stop there. During her 24 years caring for cardiac babies at UCSF, she has seen the positive impact of these donations on her and her fellow nurses, as well. She said the staff at UCSF finds joy in passing along theses homemade items to their critically ill patients.


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